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|April 18, 2001||
Amberish K Diwanji
A tale of two liars!
Two men deposed before the Liberhans Commission hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case. One was P V Narasimha Rao, who was prime minister when the incident at Ayodhya occurred and therefore morally responsible for whatever happened, and did not happen.
The other is Home Minister L K Advani, who can be called the leader of the mass upsurge that demolished the dilapidated Babri Masjid so that a temple in honour of Lord Ram could be built on the same spot.
Both of these men are responsible for the events that occurred in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and strangely, both these men in their depositions chose to speak in couched terms, half-truths and misrepresentations.
Advani said the day the masjid ('disputed structure,' according to him) was destroyed was the saddest day in his life. It may well have been, because that one act has ensured that when it finally came to selecting a prime minister for India, Vajpayee won over Advani, who was perceived as being tainted.
In his deposition, he said he tried hard to stop the kar sevaks, but failed, and what is more, he did not rejoice. But why did the BJP, in tandem with the VHP, bring thousands of kar sevaks to Ayodhya in the fateful first week of December 1992? And does this master organizer actually believe that these men and women just strayed into Ayodhya?
Here, the best rejoinder comes from none other than Bal Thackeray, who had categorically asked, "Did the kar sevaks assemble at Ayodhya to sing bhajans?"
Yes, when the kar sevaks broke the masjid, Advani was reportedly quiet. He had no reason to be otherwise. His acts over the past few years, right from the time of the shilanyas in 1989, to the infamous rath yatra in 1990 had finally climaxed. No words were needed from him; because his will was being achieved.
Advani has consistently told lies, ever since he took the lead in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement down to his deposition to the Liberhans Commission. Sickeningly, as home minister, he continues this hallowed tradition. And makes matter worse by saying, to the commission, that anyway there was a de jure temple where the masjid once stood but the courts were refusing to pass judgment on the dispute.
No one can deny that Indian courts slow to hand out a verdict, but surely that gives no one, not even the BJP or Advani, the right to take the law into their own hands. Advani now says he wants a negotiated settlement to the dispute; naturally, since his party is in power now.
The goal for Advani was always Delhi, never Ayodhya. The means hardly mattered.
If Advani was pathetic, Rao was worse. This man, prime minister of India, an aspiring super power and South Asian giant, second most populous nation in the world and counting, with one of the largest standing armies and paramilitary forces in the world, conclusively proved how ineffective a nation can be if its leaders so desire.
While the nation and the world watched aghast, Rao did nothing. Absolutely nothing!
And in true Indian politician style, he blamed everyone else for the demolition: Kalyan Singh, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, his home minister S B Chavan, the district magistrate, the BJP, the VHP, the kar sevaks, the weather, the cold, the sun... everyone but himself.
It was a despicable performance by any standard, even by the extremely low standards that we in India judge our politicians by. Simply horrendous!
And to make a mockery of the Liberhans Commission, Rao gives a soliloquy in the court, and then pompously claims he is speaking for the benefit of history. History?
Alas, Mr Rao, history is already judging you, on the count of the Babri Masjid, and it is judging you very harshly. If there was one person who could have prevented the demolition, it was Rao, the prime minister of India.
Especially since it was clear, even to a political novice, that Kalyan Singh, a BJP leader, would do nothing to stop any demolition. He could have asked the paramilitary assembled there to disperse the crowd peacefully, he could have arrested the ring leaders, which could have taken the steam out of the assembled kar sevaks (a gathering usually loses its nerve when the ring leaders are nabbed, this is a classic crowd control tactic), he could have deployed a sufficiently large force around the masjid so that the kar sevaks could not reach it, he could have... but why go on?
The moot point is that Rao chose to do nothing even after repeated intelligence warning to him that the kar sevaks were hell bent on breaking the masjid. The rest is history.
And today Rao laments about clearing his name for the sake of history. If it weren't so tragic, it would actually be quite funny.
If Rao had taken firm action on the masjid, history would remember him favourably, especially since he launched India's economic liberalization. But like Nehru, who in the end is considered a failed statesman for simply not seeing the Chinese threat to India, Rao too will be remembered as a failed statesman, who could not save India's soul and secular integrity.
And in their depositions to the Liberhans Commission, both Advani and Rao have shown that they are mere politicians, and liars at that.
A few months after the Babri Masjid was demolished, students of MA (Politics), University of Bombay, where I was then enrolled, met a police superintendent who, on December 6, 1992, was on duty outside the masjid.
And when we asked him if he could have stopped the kar sevaks without drawing blood, he assured us that it could have been done. "In any gathering of people, the police usually fire into the air. But this often leads to a stampede and people die. This is what happened during the shilanyas, when quite a few people died in the stampede, not because of bullet wounds. What made the situation worse in the shilanyas time was that the area around the masjid comprised narrow lanes and bylanes, thus making it difficult for people to run, causing more chaos and more deaths.
"But by 1992, all the houses around the masjid had been removed by the BJP government, it was an open area. So if people ran away, there was ample space for them to run without causing a stampede. And we had water cannons ready to use. In December, Ayodhya is very cold and cold water would have turned the kar sevaks away quickly without loss of life," the officer stated confidently.
But the reason the police did nothing, he added, was because they received no orders from anyone. Not from Advani who was very much around and could have requested the police to stop the kar sevaks (or told Kalyan Singh, his junior party member to issue the necessary order), nor from the prime minister of India.
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