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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 1, December 26, 2009 - Annual Number 2009

The Babri Controversey and Liberhan Report

Saturday 26 December 2009, by Shree Shankar Sharan

Seventeen years after the Babri tragedy occurred, the Liberhan Report seems a bit of an anachronism and almost an unnecessaary irritant. The broad contours of the tragedly are no revelation to the country, the tragedy having been already deeply mourned as a fall from the country’s centuries’ long sanity or acclaimed as a grand assertion of Hindu valour and triumph over the minority abuse and desecration of the Hindu places of worship or sentiments which were subjects of or defeated by Muslim assailants. The controversy revolved round whether Babri was the birthplace of Lord Ram and the claims in its favour or against were left to a judicial adjudication that is still pending and unlikely to reach an early verdict. I say this since Lord Ram belonged to a prehistoric period; the site on excavation established that Babri was built upon a Vishnu or Buddhist temple and the inevitable changes of course of every river, including the Saryu, by which Ayodhya, the capital of King Ram, is identified. A judicial commission of inquiry side by side with a judicial proceeding was highly inadvised. The Commission should have been wound up on these grounds but was not touched by the sensitive nature of the case by either party which has formed governments at the Centre, each hoping to draw political mileage in terms of consoldating and expanding its vote-bank with the report.

The report, apart from its obvious deficiencies of naming some and omitting others of guilt for the demolition, using party ideology and not individual acts of omission or commission as the basis for accusation, has committed some strange anamolies. Thus Vajpayee has been accused but not Narasimha Rao whose constitutional duty lay in protecting the mosque. If a benefit of a benefit has to be given, why was it not given to Vajpayee? If personal belief is to be the basis, the personal belief in favour of building Ram temple at Ayodhya could not be equated with the act of forcible demolition of a mosque.

Justice Liberhsan seems to have entered the slippery grounds of personal beliefs in the field of sociology. He seems to equate Hindu sentiments with a political party. Hindu beliefs are much wider than is expressed in political acts but are generally peaceful and tolerant. While a good many grieved the vandalism at the mosque, a good many, specially the young, celebrated it. Going by the record of Bihar in retaliation to the Calcutta riots in 1946, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Rajendra Prasad had grieved over some Congressmen being affected by the communal hysteria. It also happened with the Patels more loyal to the Congress in the last Gujarat riots.

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Hindus are pretty well reconciled to the facts of Ayodhya and are not likely to be be agitated about it. It will be best to forget the whole episode as an act of reconciliation between the two communities provided both undertake not to raise any such explosive demand in the future in respect of a mosque or temple.

In fact this was a part of the core proposals that I had carried to the BJP leaders, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, as an emissary of the Moslem Personal Law Board, authorised by Maulnna Kalbe Sadiq, the Vice Chairman of the Board and Maulana Ali Mian, the Chairman of the Board, as a result of a meeting between us at Lucknow and Taquia near Rae Bareli in 1993. Restoring trust between the two communities, badly bruised, was uppermost in our minds at a meeting convened in Gandhi Bhawan, Lucknow. We had four proposals in hand to offer to the BJP. (1) Rebuilding the mosque where it was. (2) Let nothing be built on the disputed land. (3) Let a temple and mosque be built by sharing the disputed land. (4) Let the Muslims as an act of grace and good hand over the disputed site to the Hindus on condition that they will not again raise such a demand in respect of any other mosque or temple. The BJP leader, Vajpayee, accepted the fourth option after some criticism of his own party. Advani also did the same after shedding some tears on the events of December 6, and dispatched me to the RSS who wanted six months time to make a response after the MPLB made the proposal in the fourth option and the VHP shot it down altogether refusing any quid pro quo. While the initiative was dying, Ali Mian encouraged me to chase Vajpayee whom he called a good man but who prevaricated on being the first to make the announcement of a positive reponse to the proposal. The initiative died because of the famous Vajpayee swing between the ethically correct and politically expedient, the ambiguity of the RSS, and the fanaticism of the VHP.

All this has been recounted to support the wisdom of an agreed political solution and to reiterate that if a solution was possible in 1993, so should it be now. We should pursue that than chase the fruitless Liberhan Commission Report of doubtful impartiality or the ongoing judicial proceedings. If it succeeds we could end the pain of the December 6 episode, settle a dispute that on both sides had gone beyond the communal and had touched a deep religious chord, words I had used with the BJP leaders, and move forward on more important issues of bread and butter and communal amity for both Hindus and Muslims.

A question had been asked by the MPLB as to who will guarantee the agreed formula. My reply was that there could be no better guarantor than the goodwill and good sense of the people. To my counter-question of a guarantor in the Muslim community, their reply was that there was a much smaller percentage of literacy among Muslims than among Hindus. But there could be no better agency to convince Muslims than the MPLB and the Milli Council. Should a similar doubt be raised on the proposal again this could be the answer. Let the memory of a gruesome tragedy be erased from the minds of the hurt party and let the other side graciously decide to let bygones of history be bygones.

The author is the President, Awami Ekta Manch, Patna/Delhi.

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