17 years on, Commission says Babri demolition was planned (Roundup)

New Delhi, Nov 24 (Inditop.com) Putting at rest 17 years of speculation, the Liberhan Commission Tuesday pinned the blame for the demolition of the Babri Masjid on Hindutva advocates across the spectrum and said in a scathing indictment that events leading up to Dec 6, 1992 were “neither spontaneous nor unplanned”.

The voluminous 1,029 page probe on the razing of the 16th century mosque by Hindu fanatics that polarised India along communal lines and triggered nationwide riots was tabled in parliament along with the action taken report (ATR), formally unravelling the events that led up to it and identifying those responsible.

While condemning the Hindutva brigade for its role, the commission also lashes out at the administration and the Muslim leadership of the day but appears to be silent on the inaction of the Congress-led P.V. Narasimha Rao government in power in New Delhi.

The one-man commission of inquiry led by high court judge M.S. Liberhan lists 68 people who were individually culpable “for leading the country to the brink of communal discord”. These include former prime minister and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee along with his colleagues like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as well as Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

The list includes the gamut of the Hindutva leadership – from Ashok Singhal and Pravin Togadia of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to K.S. Sudarshan of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Acharya Dharmendra of the Dharam Sansad.

Then chief minister Kalyan Singh and his government came under sharp attack for being the “essential component needed by the Sangh Parivar for its purposes”.

According to Liberhan, Kalyan Singh maintained a “studied silence” even at the height of the crisis in December 1992 and “refused to allow even a single measure which might impede the Ayodhya campaign or prevent the assault on the disputed structures, the journalists or the innocent people”.

Even when it was brought to his notice that the Babri Masjid had been demolished and mobs were attacking Muslims in Ayodhya, he did not direct the police “to use force or resort to firing to chase away the miscreants or to save the lives of those wretched innocents…”

Labelling Vajpayee, Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi “pseudo-moderates”, the report states: “These leaders cannot however be given the benefit of the doubt and exonerated of culpability�There can be no greater betrayal or crime in a democracy and the Commission has no hesitation in condemning these pseudo-moderates of their sins of omission.”

Bureaucrats and police officers are not spared.

“They could have at least attempted to stem the tide of communalism and the rape of democracy. But they chose to remain deaf, dumb and blind throughout and instead became a willing part of the cartel,” Liberhan, who has mentioned then chief secretary V.K. Saxena and police chief S.V.M. Tripathi in his culpability list, stated.

The Liberhan Commission also slams the “fanatical Muslim leadership” and says:

“While the RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and the BJP brought the temple construction movement to the front burner and caused it to boil over, the fanatic Muslim leadership making the counterclaim were either completely complacent and had no substantial or effective leadership or were simply incompetent.”

Responding to the commission’s recommendations that religion must be separated from politics, the government agreed in its 13-page ATR that “political leaders holding office should not simultaneously hold positions of responsibility in religious organizations”.

The ATR seems to deal with safe generalities and does not recommend any punitive measures.

The government said it is contemplating a bill, envisaging the setting up of special courts, to check communal violence.

It has also stated that steps would be taken to expedite the three cases pertaining to those responsible for the mosque demolition in the special courts in Lucknow and Rae Bareli.

The long awaited report triggered a political storm with shouts of “Jai Shri Ram” resounding through the Rajya Sabha and slogans disrupting proceedings in the Lok Sabha. Fisticuffs broke out between Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and the BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia in the upper house.

Though both apologised, with Amar Singh stating that he was provoked, the unseemly fracas was telecast nationwide.

Stung by the report, the BJP preferred to focus on the lapse that led to sections of the media getting access to the report Monday.

Party president Rajnath Singh said: “The home minister should take moral responsibility for the leakage. The lapse should be probed and its report given to parliament before the conclusion of the winter session.”

Murli Manohar Joshi said the main issue was how the Liberhan report was leaked. “We want that a joint parliamentary committee should be set up to probe how the report was leaked.”

While the effectiveness of commissions is debatable, the BJP will now find it hard to deflect blame from itself.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the government would act on the recommendations of the Liberhan Commission and a supplementary chargesheet may be filed.

Seventeen years later, the reverberations of that Dec 6 continue to be felt.