Over a dozen little-known, but instrumental characters, in the most contentious Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhumi dispute are likely to remain anonymous to the world at large, even as the apex court is likely to wrap up the seven-decade-old legal imbroglio very soon. It was they who revived the campaign for the liberation of Lord Rama from the 16th-century mosque, but their names lie buried in thousands of dispute related documents, thanks to the ‘hijacking’ of their sincere campaign, by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – an ally of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
These characters had succeeded in causing ripples in the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress regime but faded into oblivion due to mismanagement, and squandering of funds raised for the construction of Ram Mandir, and the fight that resulted in disenchantment among the Hindus of Ayodhya, towards the entire episode after placement of idols.
These people at the grass-root level got together, to form an organisation to fight a legal battle initiated by Muslims. Another objective was to organise Janambhumi-related celebrations in Ayodhya, to keep the euphoria created over the placement of idols alive.
Christened as Sri Ram Janambhumi Seva Samiti (SRJSS), the organisation initially had the active involvement of prominent ascetics like Balram Das, Bhaskar Das, Dharam Das, Sitaram Das, Vrindavan Das, Bhramdev Shastri, Kedarnath Arya, Baba Raghav Das, Ram Gopal Das ‘Sharad’, Awadh Kishor Jha, Upendra Nath Mishra, Indu Shekhar Jha, and Swami Karpatri.
The organisation soon passed into the hands of Guru Dutt Singh, former city magistrate of Ayodhya, Gopal Singh Visharad and Ram Chandradas Paramhans. While Singh became its general secretary, after resigning from his government job, Visharad became its joint secretary and Paramhans overall in charge of the campaign. The Samiti collected large sums to execute its objectives but lost credibility in the eyes of locals as charges of corruption erupted and counter-charges followed.
The name of Sharad deserves mention, as editor of ‘Virakta’, that was used extensively to build a campaign over the issue by Visharad. He became vocal about the squandering of money by the trio. A known member of the Hindu Mahasabha developed hatred against Visharad; that he was being kept away from the use of funds deliberately. He carried a series of articles in his newspaper about rampant corruption in the management of huge sums pouring in the kitty of Samiti. An enraged Visharad filed a defamation suit against the editor and publisher but failed to win it.
Besides Sharad, Paramhans, who had disappeared on the night of December 22, 1949, after promising to accompany Abhiram Das for placing the idols, also became disgruntled. He too started a campaign against Visharad; firmly believing that he was being deprived of its due share in the booty with other characters like Balram Das, Bhaskar Das, Dharam Das, Vrindavan Das, Awadh Kishor Jha, Indushekhar Jha, Upendra Nath Mishra, Jugal Kishor Jha, who had all assisted Abhiram Das in the capture of the mosque, reduced to the status of mute spectators.
Ayodhya witnessed frequent fights over the distribution of the donations and offerings made by devotees for constructing Ram Chabutra, in continuation of ‘Akhand Kirtan’; started at the behest of Shakuntla Nayar, the wife of the then district magistrate.
Officially, Priya Duttaram was the receiver for the attached property; virtually he had no access to the funds of which he was in charge. Duttaram soon found himself amid allegations of pilferage on a large scale. The greed killed the unity of conspirators, and collaborators, upon whose handiwork the Hindu Mahasabha had built its strategy to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The ordinary devotees of Lord Rama felt cheated, and soon disassociated themselves from the campaign, believing that their leaders had undoubtedly produced the miraculous appearance of ‘Ram Lalla’, but lacked the power to maintain, and sustain, the campaign for construction of Ram Mandir.
After three decades, VHP restored the campaign in the 1980s, almost two decades after its formation. They too attracted funds from India and abroad, that remain unaccounted for, till date. If the past is any indication, the after-effects of a pro-temple decision will be worth watching, as one little-known character, Bhramdev Shastri was found murdered in his house in 1958; he was the owner of Ramesh Art press in Shringhar ghat area of Ayodhya.
Visharad had used this press for posters and pamphlets, on the night of 22-23 December 1949, to create awareness about the appearance of Ram Lalla in Babri Masjid. His efforts had yielded overwhelming response from Hindus, who had thronged in large numbers as envisaged by Mahasabhites.
The dejected cousins and brothers of Abhiram Das – Awadh Kishor Jha, Upendra Nath Mishra and Indu Shekhar Jha also left Ayodhya silently, after finding no scope to play any role in the campaign, under the control of Dutt and Visharad. Temple construction and the management of funds had resulted from their endeavours by putting their lives at stake.
Nobody knows what happened to them; hence they remain anonymous even to those who participated in the demolition of the mosque, or the modern-day youth, longing for immediate construction of the temple, in case of a favourable verdict.