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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 17, April 19, 2014

Demolition of Pluralism

Sunday 20 April 2014, by Kuldip Nayar

I may question the timing, practically on the eve of polling for the Lok Sabha election, of the disclosure of conspiracy behind the demolition of the Babri Majid at Ayodhya in 1992. I do not know how this has helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the polls during which it shed the development factor and came out in true colours, the pro-Hindu stance. Its election manifesto is a bit accommodative on the Mandir and seeks solution within the constitutional framework. But the BJP remains adamant on Article 370 which is an integral part of the process of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India.

The other main party, the Congress, did not lag behind in communalising the environment. The party marshalled Shahi Imam Bukhari and other Muslim clerics behind it. The party did not care about the oft-repeated allegation against it that the Congress goes out of the way to appease the Muslims.

Yet, I commend the meticulous job of piecing together the bits of information through sting operations spread over three years to bring to light the plan to destroy the Masjid. The news portal, which has divulged the details, says that the demolition was an “act of planned sabotage”. It was meticulously planned, rehearsed and executed.

This confirms what Justice M.S. Liberahan had said in his report on the demolition. He has reiterated in a press interview: “It stands beyond doubt that the events of the day were neither spontaneous nor unplanned, nor an unforeseen overflowing of the people’s emotion. Narendra Modi was part of the L.K. Advani’s rath yatra in support of mandir.”

What has pained me is the fact that both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani knew about the proposed demolition—the plan and the exercise carried out for demolition. I was honestly taken in by Vajpayee’s argument that it was an act of people’s spontaneous emotions and had no prior planning behind it. When Advani resigned from the Lok Sabha taking moral responsibility, I really believed that he was speaking the truth. I feel cheated. The alacrity with which he withdrew the resignation within 24 hours indicates the hypocrisy. And Vajpayee still plugs the line that it was a spontaneous reaction of the crowd. This is not true because half-a-million sevaks were assembled from different parts of the country, particularly Maharashtra, on December 6, 1992.

The Justice Liberhan report is an indictment of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which has taken 22 years to complete the probe as it claims to have done. More than that it is an indictment of public figures that were part of the conspiracy but parade themselves as apostles of virtue. Other BJP leaders, some of whom I see on various channels of television, do not minimise the sin by arguing that no sting operation has been carried out in the case of corruption deals by the Congress. This can be done even belatedly. But the Sangh Parivar cannot be absolved of its nefarious activities.

I knew all along that Narasimha Rao, then the Congress Prime Minister, had blessed the destruction. He had the Army deployed in the vicinity and was bound to use it when the Supreme Court had said to maintain the status quo, that is, to protect the Babri Masjid. Not a single soldier was moved to defend the mosque, nor even the proposal to surround the structure with tanks to ward off any attack.

What Socialist leader Madhu Limaye had said left me with no room for any doubt about Rao’s involvement. According to Limaye, when the demolition began, Rao sat for puja. There were frantic calls from his colleagues to reach him out to take action against those who were engaged in destroying the mosque, but he had instructed that he should not be disturbed. When the destruction was complete, Rao’s aide whispered into his ears that the process was complete. Rao finished his puja.

The Masjid’s demolition was followed by communal riots, particularly in Mumbai. Rao invited some senior journalists to seek media help to normalise the situation. I was one of the invitees. I asked Rao how a small temple had come to be built overnight when the Centre had taken over the administration after dismissing the State Government ruled by the BJP. He answered me: the temple would not be there for long.

Twentytwo years have gone by since the demolition. I had reminded Rao of his assurance on several occasions when he was still in power. But no action has been taken despite my repeated writings. The small temple stands there even today and the talk to accommodate the Muslims by building a mosque next to the Mandir is not heard anymore.

I can understand and even appreciate the arguments of those who claim that it was the Ram Janmabhoomi and not the Babri Masjid. But when lakhs of Ram sevaks gather there and even beat up a few Gandhites who objected to violence, the dictum sought to be proved is that the majority community would have the way through peace, if possible, or by force, if necessary.

In fact, the Babri Masjid’s destruction is a watershed in our country’s ethos of pluralism. The Muslim community began to tilt on the side of extremists since. Its faith in the secular society was shaken and it went even to the extent of not protesting against the terrorists.

If I were to trace militancy among the Muslims I would find the demolition of Babri Masjid as the beginning. The community feels insecure, particularly on the prospects of Modi becoming the Prime Minister. All that I can say is that India is a multi-religious society for centuries and the society has learnt to live that way.

If Modi tries to undo the reality, he will find defiance all over. He may even jeopardise the country’s integrity. I wish the BJP’s election manifesto had mentioned at least once the word secularism. Although the new converts to the BJP argue that when the party swears by the Constitution, it expresses its faith in secularism without spelling it out. I wish it were so because when the Babri Masjid was demolished it was done despite the Constitution.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com