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June 20, 1998


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Ex-home secretary blames Union ministers for contributing to Babri masjid demolition

Former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole on Friday charged Union ministers L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati with directly contributing, through their actions and pronouncements, to the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

Continuing his cross-deposition before the Liberhan Commission, inquiring into the sequence of events which led to the demolition of the disputed structure, Godbole squarely blamed both the leadership of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party of indulging in brinkmanship in the entire episode.

Brinkmanship means taking a leap in the darkness without taking the consequences into consideration, replied the former bureaucrat from the Maharashtra cadre to a question from the Commission.

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi did play a part in bringing the disputed Ayodhya issue to the national level, and Advani and Dr Joshi further contributed to this action by taking out a rath yatra later, he pointed out.

Godbole also blamed former internal security minister Rajesh Pilot for creating unnecessary controversy while making policy statements on major issues such as militancy in Punjab and Kashmir and the Ayodhya issue, by suggesting that tough actions be initiated against the state governments, particularly Uttar Pradesh in this case.

Madras high court Chief Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan cross-examined Godbole mainly on the basis of his affidavit exclusively containing disclosures in a book Unfinished Innings authored by him highlighting the role played by the Centre during the period of crisis.

Former Union ministers Sharad Pawar, P R Kumaramangalam and Kamal Nath in the Narasimha Rao cabinet were dealing with the Ayodhya situation at the national level and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and his home minister were dealing with it at the state level, he stated.

A parallel communication channel was established at the Cabinet secretariat headed by S Rajagopal to monitor the Ayodhya situation. The then home minister S B Chavan had to face criticism in and out of Parliament for ''believing'' the state government that the disputed structure at Ayodhya would be safeguarded at any cost, Godbole said.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Rajendra Singh had expressed his apprehension about the demolition of the disputed Babri structure by forewarning the prime minister P V Narasimha Rao as early as on February 3, 1992, he said, in reply to another poser from the Commission's chairman.

Godbole said there was no substance in the letter written by former Union minister Arjun Singh, a Cabinet colleague of Rao, accusing the central government of not taking preventive action prior to demolition of the disputed structure.

Replying to another question, he stated that there was no mention of the contingency plan prepared by the home ministry in the know of the then prime minister and home minister, and in the white paper on Ayodhya episode.

The inter-state council was not brought into the picture as far as the Ayodhya issue was concerned, he said, and added that according to the Intelligence Bureau perception there were no threats to the disputed structure.

However, he said the possible conspiracy to demolish the Babri mosque was not brought to the government's notice by the intelligence agency despite rumours to this effect.

The structure could have been saved from the possible threats if it was taken over by the paramilitary forces before the kar seva began despite the stay orders, he said in reply to a question.

The BJP disowned responsibility for the July 1992 kar seva at Ayodhya and requested the government to initiate action against the sadhus involved in it, he said.

The main aim of the Centre was to avoid possible confrontation between state and central forces as there could have been serious conflict, he said in reply to another question.

Neither was a contingency plan for dismissal of the state government implemented by the Centre nor were decisions on certain matters taken, he said when asked by the Commission's chairman as to what inaction on the part of the then prime minister contributed to the demolition.

Sharing of information on the disputed structure led to the tension between state and Centre, he said and added that the state government reiterated its commitment to safeguard the structure and from time to time conveyed preparedness of the security arrangements to prevent any mishap.

He refuted the impression created that the Union home ministry was not prepared to meet the challenge concerning the Ayodhya episode. The state government machinery and equipment were used in the kar seva in spite of the court stay order, he said and added that the home minister was not involved in any discussions as far as the Ayodhya matter was concerned, he added.


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