When I served at the ministry of defence in New Delhi, there was a common Punjabi joke about 'planning' making the rounds. Planning: Hun ki kara? (What should be done now?). Long term planning: Kal ki karan? (What is to be done tomorrow).
But that was two decades ago. We have now progressed to abolishing any planning at all.
What else can one say when with just a few days left to hold the Commonwealth (how appropriate) Games, Delhi resembles a war zone!
Similar neglect seems to be the response to the looming Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute time bomb.
The Allahabad high court is on the verge of giving its verdict on the Ram Janam Bhoomi/Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya on September 24. The court apparently informed the government that it has reached a conclusion in July itself.
The only palpable response seems to be to alert and deploy central paramilitary forces in Uttar Pradesh.
Unfortunately, the dispute has become so mired in emotion and hardened positions that whichever way the verdict goes, one party or the other is going to feel aggrieved.
With Pakistan (and now increasingly China) just waiting to exploit the fissures in Indian polity, we must expect violence.
With instant communication by television media (that was not present in December 1992 when the mosque was demolished) it should be clear that the media, grievance-mongering NGOs and extremists of both sides would just love to exploit the situation.
Some time ago the damage to a Dr (Babasaheb) Ambedkar statue in an obscure corner had led to riots in far off places. We must fully expect the irresponsible media (especially television), extremist groups and foreign interests to fully milk the issue to incite violence.
What impact this will have on the nation is anybody's guess.
Currently the courts are adjudicating on two main issues -- to whom the disputed land belongs and was there a pre-existing temple?
On the first issue it is quite clear that it was a mosque and a waqf property. The placing of Shri Ramchandra's idols in 1950 was an illegal act.
The 1992 demolition of the mosque was, of course, a clear violation of the law of the land. And that it happened in presence of thousands of policemen, it is a blot on India.
But having said that, the supporters of the Babri Masjid are on a slippery ground when it comes to the evidence on a pre-existing temple. Simply stated, if Ayodhya is Shri Ram's birth place, there ought to have been a Ram Janam Bhoomi temple.
As to the likelihood of the temple having been demolished, if we look at Somnath, the Krishna Janam Bhoomi or the Gyan Wapi mosque/Kashi Vishwanath temple, in all cases there is enough written and archaeological evidence.
But even more intriguingly, eminent historians and fundamentalist (and intolerant) secularists soon entered the fray and questioned the very historicity of Shri Ram.
One wishes that these worthies had taken trouble to travel to Sri Lanka at least to find the monuments associated with Sri Ram and his worthy opponent King Ravana (Sitvelha near Nuraya Eliya in central Sri Lanka).
The dispute has gone for too long and is not the monopoly of extremist organisations on both sides since it affects the welfare and peace of the entire nation.
The government should stop acting like a policeman and take active steps, the first and foremost being to convey a meeting of the National Integration Council.
The Council has all shades of opinion and representation and must debate the issue and not leave it to the courts alone.
But the beginning must be made by major Hindu religious leaders and figures apologising to the Muslim community for the destruction of the mosque on December 6, 1992.
Babar's general possibly destroyed a temple in the 16th century, but by destroying a God's house the Hindus also sinned. Two wrongs do not make one right!
The Ram Janam Bhoomi dispute is not unique. The problem at Somnath was solved by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The issue of the Krishna Janam Bhoomi in Mathura was exactly like this. If a solution could be found to construct a temple side by side to the mosque there, then why can't the same be done at Ayodhya?
If ever there was a case for the government to use its power to issue an ordnance and take pre-emptive action, this is it.
The government must stop behaving like an NGO and not let its authority fall into the hands of street goons.
It is time to lead and govern!
Colonel Anil Athale (retd), is coordinator of Initiative for Peace and Disarmament, Pune.