Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ayodhya Movement

Three years ago to the date on 24th Nov.2009, Liberhan Commission report was tabled in the Parliament.

“Non-event” to orchestrated movement

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Chairman of the Liberhan Commission M.S. Liberhan submits report to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Home Minister P. Chidambaram looks on. File Photo: PTI
PTIChairman of the Liberhan Commission M.S. Liberhan submits report to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Home Minister P. Chidambaram looks on. File Photo: PTI
Buried in the 1,000-odd pages of the humongous volume is the fascinating story of the Ayodhya dispute’s transformation from an unsung “non-event” to an orchestrated movement that finally, and inevitably, led to the destruction of the dilapidated 16th century mosque
Does the Liberhan Commission report on the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid add substantially to our understanding of the event Justice M.S. Liberhan describes as “one of the worst abhorrent acts of religious intolerance in the history of this nation and the Hindu religion?”
A superficial reading of the report would suggest that he has merely regurgitated many of the details already known to us -- the role of the sangh parivar and its affiliates; Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s systematic connivance in the demolition and his unapologetic defiance of court orders; the exploitation of the issue by hardline elements in the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Lal Krishna Advani and so forth.
And yet, thanks to the painstaking documentation the judge provides -- recording the many internal meetings of the sangh parivar, the threats, warnings and speeches emanating from the saffron fold, the forewarning available in the form of previous gatherings and agitations at the Babri Masjid site, the gradual collapse of the administration, not to mention the flurry of messages from the Centre conveying its apprehensions to Kalyan Singh -- we have with us today a wealth of information that enables construction of the exact sequence of events leading up to the demolition.
Not only this. Buried in the 1,000-odd pages of the humongous volume is the fascinating story of the Ayodhya dispute’s transformation from an unsung “non-event” to an orchestrated movement that finally, and inevitably, led to the destruction of the dilapidated 16th century mosque whose survival and security became over time the touchstone of India’s secular constitutional framework.
Space constraint prevents the telling of the story in detail but even a summary should suffice. The temple town may have witnessed successive battles over the ownership of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in the distant past, but its recent history was relatively peaceful. Indeed, the judge notes that Ayodhya was a non-event till 1975, finding no mention in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly proceedings, or in the records of the Centre. It was not an issue even with the Jana Sangh, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue was confined to Ayodhya and limited to the parties to the legal dispute -- Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans and his akhara, and the Wakf Board.
The temple town stirred into action in 1980 when it became a campaign tool of the VHP, till then a non-descript rag-tag organisation that attracted little interest in Uttar Pradesh, much less nationally. In November-December 1983, the VHP issued a formal call for “liberating the temple” and simultaneously announced a programme of rath and kalash yatras. The impact of this was minimally felt, even in Ayodhya.
In April 1984, the VHP set up two executive committees, the Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal and the Dharam Sansad, which would henceforth act as the nodal decision-making bodies for the Ayodhya issue. With the birth of the VHP’s rampaging youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, the same year, the temple campaign acquired a thuggish new face. The Dal revelled in anarchy and violence and, significantly, one of its first acts was to call for a bandh in support of opening the locks of the makeshift temple.
In March 1985, the VHP decided to raise a 50-lakh strong cadre of Ram Bhakts. Ramchandra Das Paramhans threatened to immolate himself -- the first of many such threats -- if the lock was not opened. He also declared that the movement could not succeed without political support at the national level. At this point, the RSS came fully into the picture and formally declared its support to the VHP.
With the opening of the locks on February 1, 1986 -- the judge unfortunately fails to record the role played by the Rajiv Gandhi government in this -- the stage was set for a confrontation with Muslim leaders who organised themselves into the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee. The AIBMAC observed the opening of the locks as a “black day”. From its side, this would mark the start of a long but futile struggle to protect the Babri Masjid from its future assailants.
In January 1986, the Dharam Sansad drew up plans for an elaborate shila pujan, to protest which the AIBMAC announced a “long march.” The VHP programme gave a foretaste of the sangh’s organising capability which would grow manifold over the next three years. In February 1989, the VHP declared that the foundation stone for the construction of the temple would be laid in November of the same year. By this time, a full model of what Mr. Advani would subsequently and frequently refer to as “a resplendent temple” was ready for public viewing.
In June 1989, the BJP, till then insistent that the campaign was the VHP’s baby, jumped on the mandir bandwagon, obviously sensing the political potential it offered to a party that had been reduced to two Lok Sabha seats in the 1984 general election. In the cool environs of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, the party resolved to not only support the movement but also participate in it, arguing that this had become necessary to counter the Congress’ anti-Hindu propaganda. The BJP also entered into a confrontation with the judiciary by disputing its jurisdiction on matters relating to the temple which, it said, symbolised the faith of Hindus.
The judge does not dwell too much on this part, but BJP watchers would know that the “historic” decision would indelibly alter the course of the country, which would now be perennially haunted by the demons of communalism. The Palampur resolution energised the BJP’s cadre and pitchforked Mr. Advani to the centre of the battle, which role he performed to perfection, coining such immortal phrases as “minority appeasement” and “pseudo-secularism,” and declaring that there were only two ways to resolve the dispute -- by a negotiated settlement or by legislation. Needless to say, both routes led to the construction of the temple.
With Mr. Advani in command, the once “non-event” metamorphosed from a semi-religious, on-again, off-again affair into a full fledged political agitation whose central objective was to polarise Hindus and Muslims and harvest votes from the division. From here on, events would gallop at break-neck speed, each milestone in the sangh calendar adducing to Mr. Advani influence and clout — he would force the Rajiv Gandhi government to acquiesce in the November 1989 shilanyas ceremony, restore the BJP’s respectability with the Janata Dal’s support, inflame passions from atop his rath yatra, unmindful of the death and destruction that came in its wake, and finally create an environment for lawlessness at Ayodhya by deliberately and repeatedly announcing from every available platform that the mandir would be built — with or without the court’s permission.
Whether or not the “loh purush (iron man)” was aware of the plan to destroy the Masjid on December 6, 1992 will never be known. Justice Liberhan himself takes the view that Mr. Advani may not have been involved in the actual decision-making. He calls him -- as also Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi -- a “pseudo-moderate” who became a willing tool in the hands of the RSS.
Ultimately, it is immaterial whether or not Mr. Advani was involved in the cataclysmic climax. As is clear from the elaborate evidence laid out by Mr. Justice Liberhan in his report, the kar sevaks had become a Frankenstein’s Monster created jointly by the RSS, the BJP and other parivar affiliates. The stage was irreversibly set for the “non-event” of the 1980s to turn into a tragedy of epic proportions.

Excerpts are given in an issue of Communalism Combat .

Anyone who lived through those days remembers the disgraceful roles of Governor of UP,  Prime Minister Rao, Allahabad High Court, Supreme Court apart from the Saffron Brigade.  Yet I remember The Hindu going  ga ga over Narasimha Rao's deposition before the commission.

Former Liberhan lawyer questions worth of probe

Published: Thursday, Jul 2, 2009, 0:39 IST 
By Rakesh Bhatnagar | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
Liberhan Commission counsel Anupam Gupta, who cross-examined BJP stalwart LK Advani and former prime minister the late PV Narasimha Rao, among others, quit the assignment three years ago, just when the fact-finding panel began penning its report.
Gupta of Chandigarh said he left the commission because he didn’t agree with justice (retired) MS Liberhan’s soft approach towards Advani.
The BJP leader’s testimony and cross-examination run into 192 pages against Rao’s deposition of about 20 pages.
Had Gupta stayed back, the commission could have filed the report two years ago. But since he quit, the depositions had be recorded afresh.
Liberhan and Gupta had practiced together in the Punjab and Haryana high court. Later, Liberhan became a judge in the Madras high court and was subsequently, elevated as the chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh high court.
Gupta has his doubts about the usefulness of the Liberhan Commission report. “I had often disagreed on several important issues relating to the commission’s inquiry. We differed on the role and relevance of ideology and history in the probe. I’m convinced the probe cannot yield anything fruitful or enduring unless it addresses the ideological moorings of the movement. The report will be worth very little if these aspects and issues are sidestepped or underplayed,’’ he said.
“I also believe the principal challenge before the commission in terms of personalities is how it evaluates the roles and responsibilities of Advani and Rao. I would like the report to dwell on it comprehensively and in a principled manner,” Gupta told DNA.
“I am not certain whether justice Liberhan accords Advani and Rao the same central importance as I do, or whether he would like to address their role and responsibility,” he said.
So what went wrong? “Relations had come under a strain midway during my examination of Advani, who was then the home minister,” Gupta said tactfully.
“On June 13, 2001, a major confrontation took place between Advani and me in the court on the issue of Nehru’s attitude to the renovation of the Somnath temple,” he said, recalling what he had written in a magazine then.
“Advani lost his cool and lodged a strong verbal protest with the judge (Liberhan). That evening, justice Liberhan asked me to tone down my questioning of Advani. I refused and told him I’ll quit the commission the next morning but only after making a statement in court. Until then, my examination of Advani, though sharp, was marked by certain warmth. But after this, he became wary of me.”
Gupta said he had differences with Liberhan on whether the final report should analyse the ideological and historical aspects of the movement that led to the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992.


Omissions and commissions 

Depositions by P.V. Narasimha Rao and L.K. Advani before the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry amount to exercises in rationalisation and evasion.
THE committee rooms in Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan seem a world removed from the battleground of Ayodhya where the Hindutva forces launched their frenzied assault against secularism and the rule of law. And the lapse of more than eight years may have dimmed the violent passions that were stirred up by the campaign to supplant an Islamic place of worship with a temple to a revered hero of Hindu myth.
After a long spell of fruitless endeavour and legal wrangling, the M.S. Liberhan Commission of Inquiry into the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya seems to have hit a productive vein of public disclosure. The depositions it has managed to secure in the last few weeks represent milestones in the effort to establish the truth behind the dark deed of December 1992. And after the official efforts to dignify the feeble and ineffectual response to an unprecedented challenge to the authority of the state, the Liberhan Commission perhaps holds the promise that a more complete and accurate picture will be available for the record.
L.K. Advani arriving to depose before the Liberhan Commission.
Evasion of the Commission's summons may have been a viable strategy for some of the principal actors of the demolition drama at Ayodhya. But after several attempts to secure their appearance had been frustrated, Justice Liberhan made it known that he would not hesitate to resort to issue non-bailable warrants. For the many Ayodhya crusaders and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who are now ensconced in responsible positions in government this would have been a serious indignity. Recent months have thus seen the appearance of Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Minister of State for Sports Uma Bharati. But the deposition by Home Minister L.K. Advani, which immediately followed the appearance of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao has been the highlight of the Commission's deliberations so far.
Viewed in conjunction, the depositions by Advani and Narasimha Rao provide key insights into the political power-play that preceded the demolition. The then Prime Minister, for instance, has placed on record an elaborate rationalisation of his sequence of actions, which then seemed like an abdication of responsibility. Despite initiating broad-ranging consultations over possible means to defuse the sharpening crisis, Narasimha Rao told the Commission, he was not given sufficient political and legal backing for any firm measures that he may have been contemplating. At a meeting of the National Integration Council he was warned by none other than the Communist Party of India veteran Indrajit Gupta that imposition of President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh may not be an option. And the Supreme Court had refused to countenance his plea that the Central government should be empowered as a "receiver" to take the area of the Babri Masjid into its custody.
In advancing the alibi of helplessness, Narasimha Rao also implicated his former Cabinet colleagues. He stated before the Commission that he had during a two-day visit abroad late in November 1992 fully authorised his senior colleagues in the Ministry, notably S.B. Chavan, Arjun Singh and Sharad Pawar, who were respectively the Ministers for Home, Human Resource Development and Defence, to fashion an appropriate resolution of the problem. This was a "window of opportunity" that he had presented them, which they unfortunately squandered, said Narasimha Rao.
The former Prime Minister admitted that there was a contingency plan, authored by Home Secretary Madhav Godbole, which had been placed before him. But he thought the plan, which charted out a sequence of demands that the Centre could place on the State government, culminating in the event of their cumulative non-fulfilment in the imposition of President's rule, to be unworkable. The invocation of Article 356 was contingent on the satisfaction of the President. And as a constitutional expert, President Shankar Dayal Sharma, claimed Narasimha Rao, may have been sceptical of the grounds advanced for the imposition of Central rule.
These must seem rather curious averments, since Sharma had on the day of the demolition issued one of the strongest presidential fiats ever witnessed in independent India. His directive to the government of the day to do all that was necessary to preserve the peace and ensure the rule of law might have been an unusual step for a constitutional head of state. But in the circumstances then prevailing, it was widely endorsed as the proper thing to do.
Narasimha Rao's self-extenuating pleas only reinforce the impression that he was suffering from a complete paralysis of political initiative in the days leading up to the Ayodhya demolition. This had been induced as much by his own reluctance to take firm action as by the Congress party's prolonged record of waffling when confronted by the challenge of Hindutva communalism. For at least the five years of Rajiv Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister, the policy of the Congress was to stoke rival forms of competitive communalism. The capitulation to Islamic fundamentalists in the Shah Bano case was followed in quick time by a blatant overture towards Hindu extremists. If the Muslim Women's Bill was the "Muslim card", the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid which enabled access to the Ram idols that had been surreptitiously introduced there in 1950, was the "Hindu card".
There were several opportunities in the following years for the Congress to step off this hazardous tight-rope between two forms of extremism. But these were not taken. By 1989, the game was up. The BJP had snatched the "Hindu card" from the faltering grasp of the Congress. From then on, the BJP was to set the agenda with its provocative campaigns of mobilisation. To respond effectively, the Congress needed to repudiate much of its legacy from the late-1980s. And that was a challenge to its political ingenuity from which it came off rather poorly.
Significantly, after the Ayodhya demolition Narasimha Rao committed himself fairly unequivocally to the reconstruction of the Babri Masjid. This assurance has been conspicuously absent from all the subsequent political campaigns of the Congress. Again, the Narasimha Rao government chose the path of indifference and silence immediately after the demolition, when certain individuals with fairly transparent political motivations petitioned the Allahabad High Court for the unfettered right to worship at the makeshift temple that had been installed at the site of the Babri Masjid. The 1986 court order opening the locks of the Masjid had effectively legitimised the act of trespass of 1950. The 1992 "darshan" order compounded this by effectively legitimising the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
IN the course of his two-day long deposition before Liberhan, Advani, who had led one of the three convoys of kar sevaks that converged on Ayodhya to perform their act of vandalism, made an elaborate play on precisely these points. On the first day Advani spoke with feeling and passion about the acute distress the demolition had caused him. This had been his stated position in the immediate aftermath of the event and it continued to be so, he said. He had no intention at any stage to advocate or condone the demolition. Rather, his purpose was to achieve the peaceable relocation of the Babri Masjid with all the respect and deference due to a place of worship. But he was helpless in controlling the kar sevaks who acted that day in frustration and rage at the continuing prevarication of the government.
Advani's statements effectively affirm that the Muslim community, in atonement for all its historical sins, should have acquiesced in the effacement of a part of its cultural heritage. This would be the only means for them to buy peace with the Hindu majority. It was only their continuing obduracy - encouraged by the Congress government - that led to the tragic event at Ayodhya.
In disowning or pleading ignorance of all the inflammatory rhetoric that had been unleashed by his confederates in the Hindutva family, Advani has again been consistent to his long held position. But there is no escaping the inference that he is being disingenuous, since many of the most violent incitements were fashioned by the participants in his 1990 rath yatra. Disavowing this perfectly reasonable belief, Advani quoted from Koenrad Elst, a Belgian theologian who earned a brief notoriety in India with his rather crass rationalisation of the Ayodhya movement. Far from being an incitement to violence, Elst seemingly said, the rath yatra was "an island of orderliness".
Anupam Gupta, counsel for the Liberhan Commission, had his own scholarly references at hand, and these were of decidedly greater authenticity than Elst's work. But Advani's counsel objected to his effort to place on record a scholarly account of the rath yatra from an authoritative collection of essays published in 1996.
The following day, Advani came up with a more subtle sequence of arguments, which cleverly wove its way through the weak spots of the Congress position. The "disputed structure" at Ayodhya had always been a temple, he claimed. Although it had the superstructure of a mosque, it had been revered as a temple marking the birth place of Lord Ram since 1950. The court order permitting devotees access to the idols in 1986 had conferred this de facto situation with de jure legitimacy.
Under some sharp cross-examination Advani was compelled to admit that his use of the term "de jure" was rather loose. He conceded that the courts could, in deciding on the issue of title to the site, reverse the 1986 order. But it was nevertheless the fact, he said, that it has "by now been accepted by all that on the place believed to be Ram's birthplace, there is only a temple".
In a significant statement that could have repercussions for the political balance of power within the Hindutva fraternity, Advani also asserted that with the temple now an accomplished fact, he did not endorse the demand for a new structure commemorating the birth of Ram. Effectively, this is a signal to the hardline elements within the BJP and its large ideological family that the temple construction project may not be a politically rewarding pursuit in the years to come. If anything, Advani's craftsmanship of the ideological rationale of the Ayodhya movement, speaks of a shrewd political sense. Now with the purpose of power achieved, he believes that further insistence on the theme would be counter-productive. This could well reflect an accurate reading of ground realities. But the purpose of calling to account those culpable for independent India's greatest political outrage still remains to be consummated.  .
‘Liberhan consciously overlooked the wealth of information available’
Interview with Anupam Gupta, lawyer.

Anupam Gupta, who quit as counsel of the commission.
ANUPAM GUPTA was counsel for the Liberhan Commission for eight years between 1999 and 2007, a period when most of the hearings were carried out. Gupta left the commission because of differences with Justice Liberhan. This does find a mention in the commission’s report as a factor that contributed to the delay in preparing the report. According to Gupta, the differences with Justice Liberhan revolved around the latter’s eagerness to soft-pedal investigations against L.K. Advani. The arguments used by Liberhan to paint him as the cause of the delay, Gupta says, are exactly those used by the BJP leader. Gupta presents his point of view on the commission’s report and states emphatically that the clean chit given to the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, which was in office at the time of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, is nothing short of a sell-out. Excerpts from the interview:
As someone who had been the Liberhan Commission’s counsel for long, how would you evaluate its report?
The report needs to be appraised in both political and conceptual planes. The political plane is the one which will occupy the national attention for the next few days. This may involve questions about immediate or short-term political gains and losses. The conceptual plane refers to the principal theme of the report, which would have value for posterity. In this plane, the most striking feature is the searing attack on the RSS. The RSS is attacked not just as the umbrella organisation of the Sangh Parivar but as the alpha and omega of what happens in the Sangh Parivar.
After seven years in the commission and as somebody who had very close intellectual engagement with the subject, I can say that the attack on the RSS has considerable merit and an obvious secular value and significance. Nonetheless, in the context of the Ayodhya dispute and the demolition of Babri Masjid, it is only a grand exercise in reductionism. It presents a grossly oversimplified approach. It sees nothing but the hands and the brains of the RSS, to the extent that it obliterates the role of other organisational players such as the VHP which are directly germane and vital to the Ayodhya movement. This doesn’t present a correct historical picture because the VHP’s growth and role as an organisation is central to the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
Along with the reductionism is also the tendency for hyperbole. And collectively, they create many contradictions in the report. Take for example the critique of the Muslim organisations in the sub-section referring to this in the Conclusion. The comments virtually castigate them for not going to war with the Sangh Parivar. If they were to follow this advice, the country’s socio-political atmosphere would have got vitiated, leading to catastrophes.
Are you saying that the Liberhan report failed to delineate the finer points of the issue under consideration?
I would go beyond the expression, finer details. I would say that the wealth of information and details that was available with the commission was not properly marshalled and utilised. [It was] even consciously and purposely overlooked. For example, the commission has questioned leaders and officials on the use of paramilitary force on the fateful day. It is in the Annexure but never fully set out and unravelled in the main text of the report. This is despite a wealth of documents, correspondence and interrogations at the commission’s disposal. In the final appraisal, the complicity of the State administration headed by Kalyan Singh gets highlighted repeatedly, but the role of the Narasimha Rao government is not properly addressed. The chapter “President’s Rule” deals with the role of Narasimha Rao and the Central government, but this is nothing short of a complete sell-out. There is a complete and one-sided exoneration of Narasimha Rao and this destroys the credibility of the entire report. These 42 pages of the report stand out as studies in contrast to the vast amount of pages dedicated to the complicity of the State government.
But the commission’s argument is that the Central government had constitutional limitations.
That is a line that came up before the commission during the hearings too. Narasimha Rao himself presented views echoing that. He used to come for the interrogation armed with law books and various judgments. And he argued better than many leading lawyers of the constitutional bench of the apex court. But somewhere along the line I got the impression that it is too well rehearsed and too constitutional an argument to be credible. Therefore, I confronted him with the reports of the Sarkaria Commission and the Administrative Reform Commission which gave suo motu powers that the Centre can deploy in exceptional circumstances. He pleaded that the Constitution did not permit him to do so. He cited the deletion of a provision – Article 257(A) – which would have empowered the Central government. The arguments in the report that seek to give a clean chit to Narasimha Rao echo the very arguments made by the former Prime Minister.
You have used a very strong word, sell-out.
I have used that expression knowing its implications full well and as responsibly as it needs to be used. I would say that Justice Liberhan consciously and purposely overlooked the wealth of information and intelligence available to the Central government regarding the actual evolving situation in Ayodhya in December 1992. There are other clues in the report that point towards mechanisms used to give a clean chit to the Narasimha Rao administration. In the introductory chapter, Justice Liberhan says that it is not possible nor it is necessary to give the gist of evidence in the report, and hence he is attaching the statement of the hundred witnesses as Annexure. The remaining 16 volumes of the report are depositions of 100 witnesses. So Liberhan consciously chooses not to reproduce extracts or develop his arguments on the basis of that. He just refers to some statements of some of the witnesses such as Vinay Katiyarand Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans in a scattered and ad hoc manner. The essential methodology throughout the report is to attempt to generalise what they have said. But when it comes to the chapter on President’s Rule, this methodology is reversed. From cover to cover the actual words of the deposition of Narasimha Rao is set out in great length and in inverted commas, without any attempt to disagree with him. Narasimha Rao’s rehearsed defence of studied inaction is the report’s view on the subject. There is no attempt to criticise the arguments.
What exactly do you mean when you say there were other materials and documents that point to the failures and mistakes of the Narasimha Rao government?
Narasimha Rao’s principal defence is based on references to the State government’s assurances. He also focussed on the Governor’s letter on December 1, 1992. He had built up a structure of argument examining each and every strand of plea given in the letter. I asked him two questions based on this: How much of this is the Governor’s report and how much of it is a reflection of the State government’s view? His response was interesting. He said Governor Satyanarayana Reddy was not an appointee of the BJP, but was recommended during V.P. Singh’s time. He said he was from Andhra Pradesh and he was a very secular man. After that, in a written question, I asked him how much of the Governor’s letter was a reflection of your own view. He responded thus: ‘As a person facing a critical situation and yet what I saw as real constraint, I kept an open mind with no preconceived element in it. When I received the communication of the Governor of U.P. on 1/12/1992, I saw it as an independent and objective assessment of the Governor with a categorical advice.’
If the Governor’s letter is to be believed, the U.P. government, the bureaucracy, the administration simply cannot be indicted. The ‘constitutional limitations’ argument was built upon this bottom line: “The SC of India accepted the State government’s assurances. The Governor is similarly giving me [Rao] a similar assurance by way of his appraisal (which he refers to as ‘categorical advice’). So there is nothing to show that the State government did not intend what it assured. If it turned out otherwise how can I be blamed?”
That argument has been accepted lock, stock and barrel by Justice Liberhan. The extremely discerning approach he has adopted with the State government’s complicity is abandoned for a contrary approach. And take a close look at the Governor’s report. It is banal and hardly a differentiated analysis. Therefore to base everything on that is nothing short of a travesty. And this Governor’s report is dated December 1. Both before and especially after this, the information available with the Central government is, to say the least, not as uncritical as this. All this information was available with the commission.
You have said that the indictment of Vajpayee is not legally tenable.
That indictment revolts not only my legal understanding but sense of ethics too. The commission had passed a detailed order on July 22, 2003, rejecting an application to summon Vajpayee on the grounds that there was no evidence on record against him. At that time, the controversial speech made by Vajpayee on December 5 in Lucknow suggesting demolition of the Babri Masjid had not come to the commission’s notice. Even when the story about a CD containing that speech was published, it was not taken notice of by the commission. The right thing to do was to have summoned Vajpayee even at that time. Without doing that, how can the commission arrive at such a finding?


The farce of commissions of enquiry

Mohammed Yahya Ansari
The Nanavati Commission on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Srikrishna Commission of enquiries into the anti-Muslim Bombay riots of 1992-93, the M.S. Liberhan Commission, which probed the demolition of Babri masjid in Ayodhya, and many others set up during the last three decades, have been a monumental exercise in obfuscation to pull the wool over the eyes of the gullible people. Setting up of commissions of enquiry is the legacy bequeathed by our colonial masters. We have adopted and perfected it as an art.
People indicted by the Nanavati Commission roam free. The findings of the Srikrishna Commission have been nipped in the bud through criminal conspiracies of silence on the part of all political parties cutting across the spectrum.
Justice M.S.Liberhan has not covered himself with glory by dragging the enquiry for 17 long years with 48 extensions causing the exchequer a cool Rs. 8 crore of taxpayers’ hard earned money. What he has produced after mountainous labour is the proverbial mouse. Many holes can easily be punched in the report. It has hilarious howlers. It does not get the date of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination right — January, 31, the report says. Moreover, it mentions the name of the former President as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Azad. Perhaps, the report needed the services of a good editor.
The Liberhan Commission’s “clean chit” to P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was Prime Minister at that time, is bizarre and defies logical comprehension. Rao proved to be a poor caricature of Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt. He had all the awesome might and the wherewithal of a modern, thoroughly professional and apolitical army and intelligence services at his beck and call. He was certainly not hamstrung by the legal nicety of a Governor’s report to act, because all rules can easily be set aside by the Centre if need be, in times of emergency and national crisis to secure and safeguard communal harmony, and the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. He did nothing.
He is a wilful accomplice in the destardly and horrendous act of demolition of the Babri Masjid by the RSS, VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena and other Hindutva forces. Rao is equally a culprit and responsible for the Muslims’ scarred and wounded psyche.
The omission of Rao from the Congress pantheon of late is an indication of the high command’s perception of him as more of a liability than an asset. He effected singlehandedly a seismic, tectonic shift in the fortune of Congress by forfeiting en bloc Muslim support. He very efficiently drew the last nails into the coffin of the Grand Old Party of India and besmirched its secular credentials. He knocked down the Congress USP of good governance in a jiffy.
The Congress did not need at all an external enemy to run it down when it harboured leaders a la Rao and his ilk. His life’s crowning glory was his assuming the avtar of a modern day Machiavelli and surviving his full term for five years through dubious means. So, his exoneration by Justice Liberhan is indeed amusing and scary.
The Liberhan Commission did not think it fit in its wisdom to summon Atal Behari Vajpayee to depose before it. Yet, it held him equally guilty as L.K. Advani. Though Vajpayee might have empathised with the Ram Mandir movement, he was not on the scene when the mosque was razed. He should have been given a chance to be heard his part of the story and thus ought to have been given the benefit of the doubt to prove his culpability or innocence. No doubt, he delivered a provocative and vituperative speech to kar sevaks in Lucknow, a day before the apocalypse. It was no quirk of fate that Vajpayee was the greatest beneficiary of the temple movement as he became the first non-Congress Prime Minister for six years under the NDA regime.
Does UPA-2 have the gumption to implement the findings of the Liberhan Commission in toto? The common man’s hunch is that it will funk and the findings will be given an unceremonious burial with no crocodile tears shed. This is a painful and pitiable saga of most of the commissions of enquiry. In the final analysis, the whole exercise, to quote William Shakespeare, is akin to “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signify nothing.”

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