BLOODLESS, and BLOODY
When the history of terrorism in modern India will be written, the Babri Masjid demolition should be marked as a watershed
Rakhi Chakrabarty Delhi
After 17 years, 48 extensions and an expenditure of around Rs 8 crore, the Liberhan Commission submitted a report which had nothing new to say. The one-man commission was formed on December 16, 1992, ten days after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It was meant to submit its report within three months on March 16, 1993. But it ended up becoming the longest running enquiry commissions in the history of similar commissions.
It contributed little else. After the 16th century mosque was demolished by Hindu fundamentalists led by RSS/ VHP/ BJP leaders, the Narasimha Rao government at the Centre set up the Liberhan Commission to ward off strident criticism. Its mandate was to probe the sequence of events leading to the demolition on December 6, 1992.
But the report, running to 1,000 pages, has added little to the existing body of information. Hearings began in 1993 and the last witness was examined in 2005. Yet, the commission sought repeated extensions, the last being in March 2009.
Delay is the deadliest form of denial. The brick-by-brick demolition of the historical monument was covered by the media. In the run-up to the demolition, the saffron brigade gave incendiary speeches to incite Hindu fundamentalists. Television footage of those speeches is available. LK Advani's rath yatra criss-crossing the country was widely covered as also the insidious efforts of the Sangh Parivar leaders to destroy the social fabric of communal harmony in pluralist India.
So, what took Justice Liberhan 17 years?
BJP leaders had blood on their hands. But, could it happen without the Congress government's convenient slumber? While the mosque was being demolished, the prime minister's office was flooded with phone calls. But, Narasimha Rao was unavailable while the saffron brigade stoked the communal fire and set the country ablaze with violence, riots and killings. Rao slept through the destruction of the idea of India. A cardinal feature of India - secularism - much derided by the Sangh Parivar, was trampled and lay in tatters. And, the governments of the day, at the Centre and in UP, refused to act.
The destruction of a piece of history laid bare a deeper malady. It showed how easy it was to sabotage the system from within to further a sectarian, vicious and extremist agenda. The BJP government in UP, with Kalyan Singh as its chief minister, paralysed every arm of the administration and police by injecting the venom of communalism. Old-timers in the UP government recall how officers loyal to the BJP's brand of Hindutva were posted in Ayodhya and adjoining districts. The motive was clear.
The demolition of the mosque was the culmination of a long-running propaganda of the Sangh Parivar. They wanted to seize power by driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims and polarise the society on religious lines. For several years preceding the demolition, they worked hard to make this perverse dream a reality.
Communal riots were engineered all across. According to official records, in 1989, 14 communal riots took place in the country where 915 people were killed, including 413 persons in Bhagalpur. In 1990, there were 24 riots and 692 people were killed, including 113 in Hyderabad and 112 in Aligarh. In 1991, 24 riots took place as well the riot in Varanasi. Investigations in many cases revealed the shamelessly partisan role of the police, and the direct and covert role of the Sangh Parivar. What were the governments of the day doing?
Riot after riot and the Hindutva brigade grew in strength. They mobilised people and kar sevaks who ultimately brought down the structure. The kar sevaks were well-equipped and trained to bring down the formidable structure of the Babri Masjid. It needed more than just sticks and stones to demolish the structure. Meticulous planning, as pointed out by Justice Liberhan, is obvious. Did the intelligence agencies have no hint of the conspiracy?
The Congress looked weak and indecisive. As is their wont, the Congress tried to counter the rise of the BJP by peddling soft Hindutva. It was Rajiv Gandhi who ordered the locks of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex to be opened. In 1989, the Congress launched its election campaign from Ayodhya. Unlike the BJP, the Congress lost the plot. It managed to alienate the Muslims who had traditionally voted for the Congress.
The Liberhan Commission has not recommended punitive action against anybody. The report is a dud and a farce. When the history of terrorism in modern India is written, the Babri Masjid demolition should be treated as a watershed. The incident and riots before and after it fanned hatred and vengeance. It set the stage for the very first terrorist attack - Mumbai serial blasts in 1993 soon after the bloody riots.
It's a dark irony that most of those involved in the Mumbai blasts have been punished. But those involved in engineering the riots are still roaming free, including the Bombay pogrom of 1992 against Muslims organised by the Shiv Sena and documented meticulously by the Srikrishna Commission. Its report was dumped by the both the Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena governments in Maharashtra.
The BJP and other Sangh Parivar leaders who violated the Constitution, demolished the mosque, engineered riots after that, whipped up communal frenzy and mobilised mob violence in full public glare are still unrepentant. Even after they proudly claim responsibility for their acts, they go scot free. What an irony!