A Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader on Friday justified the demolition of the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya on December six, 1992, describing it as a '450-year-old stigma on the face of India'.
VHP general secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore also admitted that inflammatory speeches were made just before zealots tore down the mosque.
Kishore said this while deposing before the M S Liberhan Commission that is probing the circumstances leading to the demolition of the Babri mosque that triggered the country's worst communal violence since independence.
This is the first time a VHP leader has admitted that inflammatory and provocative speeches were made that day, commission sources said.
The admission comes two days after VHP leaders defied a Supreme Court order and stormed into a makeshift temple constructed on the ruins of the mosque.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has described the incident as a security lapse and hoped steps would be taken to prevent such a 'mishap' in future.
Kishore's comments came in response to repeated questioning by commission counsel Anupam Gupta if inflammatory and provocative speeches were made by VHP leaders who favoured a grand Hindu temple at the site of the mosque.
"Sadhvi Rithambara (a VHP leader) was among those who made inflammatory speeches," Kishore admitted.
Asked why such speeches were made, particularly as Kishore had previously maintained that VHP leaders had appealed to the people massed there to avoid damage to the mosque, he said Rithambara had been playing to the gallery.
"Leaders want to hear the maximum cheers when they make their speeches. This is perhaps why Rithambara spoke in the manner she did," he said.
Kishore also admitted to telling a journalist soon after the mosque had been destroyed that a '450-year-old stigma on the face of India had been removed'.
He could not recall the name of the journalist or the publication he represented.
"Why did you perceive the structure as a stigma?" Gupta asked.
To which Kishore replied: "(Mughal emperor) Babur came as a conqueror (to India) and demolished the temple that marked the birthplace of Lord Ram and built the so-called Babri masjid. This was a victory sign for Babur and a stigma for us."
Asked if his view was shared by the VHP, Kishore replied that this was 'by and large the feeling of the (country's) Hindu population'.
Liberhan: "Would there be any leader or any prominent individual of the VHP who did not agree with your view that the structure was a stigma that had to be erased?"
Kishore: "I have already given the answer."
Liberhan: "Was it a movement to construct a temple (to Lord Ram) or to remove what you call a stigma?"
Kishore: "I have always maintained that it (the mosque) was a stigma."
He declined to say why leaders of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP and allied groups, were in Ayodhya that day.
Kishore was questioned in detail about the arrangements the VHP had made to ensure that 'rowdy elements' did not mingle with the large crowd that had flooded Ayodhya in response to the VHP's call.
"Identity cards of different colours were issued to regulate the entry of (Hindus) from four points," he said.
Liberhan: "Is it correct to say that there was no checking at the four entry points on December six?"
Kishore: "In the beginning, there was checking. But as the number of (people) grew, there was pushing and shoving at all the four points. So, it is possible that there was no checking after some time."
Liberhan: "When did the police stop checking?"
Kishore: "About half-an-hour or 45 minutes after I arrived (at the spot at around 0900 hours).
Indo-Asian News Service
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