Note: This article was originally published on October 2, 2020 and is being republished on December 6, 2020 – 28 years since the mosque was demolished.
New Delhi: The special court that acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case said that it was not pre-planned and the accused persons were “trying to stop the mob and not incite them”. Judge S.K. Yadav added that there was not enough evidence against the accused and that the court cannot probe the authenticity of the audio and video evidence provided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
However, as per the Justice Liberhan Commission’s report, which was appointed by the then Central government on December 16, 1992 to probe the sequence of events that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, it was “a joint conspiratorial enterprise”. The commission, in the conclusion of its report, notes, “It is established that the events of and leading up to the 6 of December in the birthplace of the virtuous Lord Ram considered an incarnation of God and the ideal king, were tainted by a joint conspiratorial enterprise.”
‘Act of destruction was a joint conspiratorial enterprise’
In the chapter titled ‘The Joint Common Enterprise’, the commission notes,
“The incidents of December 6th were neither spontaneous, nor unpreventable. They were the zenith of a concerted and well laid-out plan which encompasses an entire pantheon of religious, political and mob leadership. It was a successful and well concealed plan of the authors of the movement who also managed to stay outside the public limelight until the actual events unfolded.”
The commission report further said,
“It is an undisputed fact that many leaders including the so called Sadhus and Sants, politicos and others including LK Advani, MM Joshi, KS Sudarshan, Uma Bharti, HV Sheshadhari, Parmod Mahajan, Ashok Singhal, Paramhans Ramchander Das, Vamdev Maharaj, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Vinay Katiyar, Professor Rajinder Singh, Champat Rai, RS Agnihotri shielded the name of many others whose names could not therefore be ascertained despite a prolonged enquiry.”
According to the commission,
“Witnesses repeated well rehearsed stories and evaded cross examination by pleading a sudden loss of memory or lack of knowledge. They denied or failed to admit even those details mentioned in the BJP’s own white paper. The witnesses consistently made efforts to protect the principal leaders like LK Advani, MM Joshi and AB Vajpayee who in their assessment were likely to come to power. They were also overprotective of the principal RSS leaders like KS Sudershan and Vamdev Maharaj for obvious reasons. All these people were uncontrovertibly present in Ayodhya or even in the Ram Janambhoomi complex on the 6 of December with the exception of AB Vajpayee who was travelling from Lucknow to Delhi.”
In concluding chapter, it notes,
“The factual matrix also yields indisputable evidence that lured by the prospect of power or wealth, a rank of leaders emerged within the BJP, RSS,VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal etc. who were neither guided by any ideology nor imbued with any dogma nor restrained by any moral trepidation. These leaders saw the “Ayodhya Issue” as their road to success and sped down this highway mindless of the casualties they scattered about. These leaders were the executioners wielding the sword handed to them by the ideologues.”
Role of the BJP-led state administration
Commenting on the role played by the then chief minister, members of the Council of Ministers, officials of the government of Uttar Pradesh and by the individuals, concerned organisations and agencies in connection with the destruction, the commission notes that it “was carried out in a duplicitous and underhanded manner. It was an act not worthy of a democratically elected government of a constituent state of this great nation.”
Refuting the BJP’s claim that it had carried out the people’s mandate, the report notes:
“The very fact that the Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, its ministers and its mandarins supported the destruction with tacit, open, active and material support at every step, but did not make it part of the officially stated agenda lends overwhelming credence to the fact that they were aware of the gross illegality and impropriety they were guilty of. It would be reasonable to conclude that they were conscious of their acts and conduct ensuring the achievement of their concealed intent to demolish the disputed structure.”
According to the commission, then chief minister of UP “Kalyan Singh, his ministers and his handpicked bureaucrats created man-made and cataclysmic circumstances which could result in no consequences other than the demolition of the disputed structure and broadened the cleavage between the two religious communities resulting in massacres all over the country. They denuded the state of every legal, moral and statutory restraint and wilfully enabled and facilitated the wanton destruction and the ensuing anarchy.”
“To sum up, December 6, 1992 saw a state of Uttar Pradesh unwilling and unable to uphold the majesty of the law. The ennui flowed from the very office of the Chief Minister downwards and infected the state’s minions down till the bottom. The state had become a willing ally and co-conspirator in the joint common enterprise to announce the revival of a rabid breed of Hindutva, by demolishing the structure they had denounced as a symbol of Islam,” the report adds further.
Singh, in a recent interview to Hindustan Times, said, “I will tell you something. That day (December 6) amid the build-up, I got a call from the district magistrate of Ayodhya saying that nearly 3.5 lakh kar sevaks had assembled. I was told that central forces were on the way to the temple town but their movement was halted by kar sevaks outside Saket college. I was asked whether to order firing (on kar sevaks) or not. I denied permission in writing and said in my order, which is still there on the files, that firing would lead to the loss of many lives, chaos and law and order issues across the country.”
Upon being asked another question on his decision, he told the reporter, “I am proud of my decision as today I can proudly say that I might have lost my government but saved kar sewaks. Now, in hindsight, I feel that subsequent demolition eventually paved the way for the temple.”
Assault on media to sabotage the evidence
Describing the sequence of events leading to the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the commission notes,
“The authors of the entire campaign were under no illusions about the illegality and immorality of their intended actions. They were aware about the likely outrage their deeds were likely to elicit around the nation and internationally, even from sections of the Hindu community. They were alert to the possibility of the top leadership of the BJP, RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena etc. being subjected to censure on the basis of any hard evidence which might be forthcoming.”
The report further notes that, “To frustrate the attempts of future investigations, including efforts by Commissions like this one, the leadership at the spot had evolved a common strategy to deny the world an accurate record of the unfolding events.” In doing so, “The first step in this direction was to ascertain the identity of the journalists who were present at the spot. The accreditation of the media was entrusted to their own cadres who were thereby able to create and maintain accurate records of the media presence. The identities of the press corps, the various organisations, the specific location etc. were obtained during the accreditation process.”
As per the commission,
“As soon as the pre-programmed assault on the structure commenced, the journalists were subjected to systematic harassment and they were not only prevented from carrying on their duties as chroniclers of the events, but were also instilled with a real fear for their own safety. The reporters were confined to small rooms or molested or otherwise threatened so that their attention was less on the events they were supposed to cover, and more on their very survival.”
It also notes that
“The memories and notes of the reporters could be — and were — denied later on. But photographs and video recordings could have proven damning for the leadership. Photojournalists therefore became recipients of especially violent treatment at the hands of the karsevaks. They were physically prevented from taking photographs or videotaping the demolition; their equipment was smashed and their exposed films were ripped open and ruined. Precious few photographs or recordings of the incidents thus managed to surface.”
In December 2017, in a public discussion organised by The Wire on the 25th anniversary of the demolition, several journalists had recounted the risk and intimidation involved in reporting the events of the day of demolition.
“…lots of so-called karsevaks broke into that area and started attacking the press, breaking the cameras…Suddenly I saw that a vast assembly of people started moving towards the mosque and there was no resistance from the police…I saw the police staff walking off…the main road leading to Ayodhya was blocked with burning cars…When I entered the mosque, I was surrounded by karsevaks, some of them who wanted to beat me up and others argued that BBC was a world-renowned organisation and it would be bad for them,” veteran journalist Mark Tully had said, adding that he and some other Indian journalists were locked up in a dharmashala subsequently. “Eventually, I was released by a mahant of a neighbouring temple…,”
“What was particularly disgraceful was that the authority of the government had completely collapsed…In fact, there was no government that day,” he added, saying that a large number of central forces stationed there did not act against the mob at all.
Meanwhile, the All India Lawyers Association for Justice (AILAJ) also issued a statement on Saturday demanding an appeal into the matter. “We demand that the CBI file an appeal and ensure that the perpetrators of this cultural cleansing be brought to justice, and the rule of law will be restored in our democracy,” read the statement signed by its national convenor, Clifton D’Rozario.
“This judgment comes as yet another blow to the edifice of the judiciary and its independence from any political influence. It reflects the increasing detachment from constitutionalism, due process and justice that were the very thrust of the Indian democracy,” it added.
The full video of the discussion can be watched here.