A Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Uttar Pradesh has advised Hindus to buy “iron swords instead of gold jewellery and silver vessels” on Dhanteras to prepare for the Supreme Court verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. Dhanteras is the first day of the festival of Diwali.

“The Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya issue is expected soon and we are confident that it will be in favour of the Ram Temple,” Gajraj Rana, the ruling party’s Deoband city president, told reporters on Saturday. “However, this could vitiate the atmosphere, so it is advisable to stock iron swords instead of gold jewellery and silver vessels. These swords will be useful for our own protection when such a time comes.”

The BJP leader, however, clarified that his comment was a “suggestion” and “nothing more should be read into it”. “Even in our rituals we worship weapons, and our gods and goddesses have used weapons depending on circumstances,” he added. “My statement was in reference to the current changing environment and a suggestion to the members of my community.”

The ruling party distanced itself from Rana’s comments. “The BJP does not endorse this kind of language if it has been used by him,” said the party’s state spokesperson Chandramohan. “Whatever he has said is in his personal capacity. There is a very clear guideline for the party leaders. Any action or statement must be done or said within the ambit of law and no one is above the law.”

Rana is known for making controversial statements. During the Lok Sabha election campaign, he had said that “Darul Uloom [in Deoband] is synonymous with terrorism”. He had also said that “there is a ‘Shiv Ling’ inside the Mecca and Hindus used to live there once”.

The Ayodhya dispute has been going on for several decades, with both Hindu and Muslim groups claiming their right to the land. The Babri Masjid stood there before Hindutva activists demolished it in 1992.

A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi reserved its judgment on October 16 after a marathon 40-day daily hearing. The verdict is expected before Chief Justice Gogoi retires on November 17.

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