A bang and a whimper

The report of the Liberhan Commission has been submitted but its contents are yet to be known. In December 2005, Hardnews published a write-up that gives a sense of the behind-the-scenes machinations that could have been the real trigger for the Babri Masjid demolition. It's not known if the Commission's report has taken these into considerations. For our readers, we republish the article
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi 

There are serious doubts as to how the Babri Masjid came down, but the truth may never be known

Eversince the Babri Masjid was demolished 13 years ago, I have found it difficult to believe such a solid structure could be demolished by trishul- and pick- axe-wielding VHP stormtroopers. Can a few hundred men climb the formidable dome of the Taj Mahal and pull it down in a few hours with crude hand-held pickaxes? Further, the manner in which the edifice collapsed - it fell in a heap, dome, pillars, and all - clearly indicates that there was more to the demolition of Babri Masjid than what CBI investigation or media reports are making it out to be.

The answers to my questions have proved elusive for many years for as many reasons as the CBI investigations have proved to be inadequate. If we believe, for instance, that there indeed was a grand conspiracy to demolish the old building and the incident was not an outcome of spontaneous expression of collective outrage, then there was obviously a mastermind who was controlling the operation. A conspiracy of this dimension involves creating a sufficient number of red herrings to derail any investigation.

Recently, I met a non-resident Indian who provided interesting leads pointing to a conspiracy that goes beyond the BJP and its zealous cousins. The mosque, according to him, was blown up with the help of explosives. Foreign demolition experts - people who can bring down tall buildings in a heap - planted explosives at strategic points in the mosque and triggered them off by a remote. This corroborates the testimony of many who claimed that they heard a muffled blast when the building collapsed. Also, just before the building fell, Ashok Singhal of the VHP was heard asking kar sevaks to get off the dome, leading to an impression that he could have been aware of what was likely to happen. Going by the relatively few people who died after the dome collapsed, it is clear that some may have been aware of how the building was to be demolished.

My NRI deep-throat went on to say that these foreign experts made two trips to India, one in August 1992 and the other on December 1, 1991 The first time, he claimed, they stayed in Delhi's Le Meridien hotel. On the second occasion, they came as part of a government delegation. These demolition men managed to sneak out of the capital and visit Ayodhya to take a final look at the explosives planted in different parts of the disputed structure. A few days later the mosque was rubble.

In itself, this information was not enough. It needed substantiation that came later in different ways. A few months later, I met a retired Indian government official who had an access to intelligence reports during those turbulent days and who believed that the mosque might not survive His fears were leavened by the ambivalence that he experienced whenever he broached the issue of safety of Babri Masjid with the then prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao. He furnished a riveting account of how different levels in the government and the judiciary did not do enough to save the mosque. This official then met Rao and beseeched him to do something, but Rao seemed lost and indifferent.

A day before the mosque was demolished; there was a move to regulate the kar seva and the number of people who perform it. The thinking was that if a few hundred enter the disputed structure then it would be easier to save the building, but with a few thousand anything could happen. A public interest litigation was moved to the Supreme Court, but it was not entertained. This official confirmed that a foreign delegation from the same country that my NRI contact had told me about had visited India in the first week of December and according to him it was always possible for visiting delegates to go anywhere.

What does this really mean? Is the BJP not involved in the demolition? Are Ashok Singhal, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi innocent? As the matter is subjudice, it is difficult to comment on the culpability of these individuals, but a person who probably had a better sense of this conspiracy was the then prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao, who chose to sleep while the structure was coming down. The big question is: did he know that the structure would be done in? If my NRI contact and the retired official are anything to go by, the truth may have been consigned to ashes with the late Narasimha Rao.