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Let's not absolve Rao

Let's not absolve Rao

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 14, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/222416/Let's-not-absolve-Rao.html

P Chidambaram's reply to the debate on the Liberhan Commission's report in Parliament is short on facts. According to him, it was PV Narasimha Rao's 'wrong political judgement' that led to the demolition of the Babri structure. That's not true. Rao knew what he was doing, and his 'inaction' was not without intent

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's reply to the debate in Parliament on the report submitted by the Justice Liberhan Commission of Inquiry leaves out crucial details related to events leading up to the demolition of the disputed Babri structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. It would seem from his reply that he is unaware of the fact that in July 1991 the Government of India, then headed by PV Narasimha Rao, got Parliament to unanimously pass the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. This law prohibited the conversion of places of worship, barring Babri masjid. Clause 3 of the Act says: "However, since the case relating to the place commonly called Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid forms a class by itself, it has become necessary to exempt it entirely from the operation of this Act." The exemption of the Babri edifice from the purview of the Act raises the following points:

Why the exemption? Was a change especially contemplated in the status of the edifice? Did not the unanimity in the passage of the Bill signify that neither Muslim nor Hindu MPs had any objection? Did not this amount to a national consensus on the contemplated change of the edifice, and hence the use of the phrase "forms a class by itself"? Do these questions not indicate that Narasimha Rao knew his gameplan?

The Home Minister was right in stating that the action was pre-planned, calculated and cold-blooded. The question is, by whom? Not the young men who climbed up the Babri domes. I was present from 10:40 that morning to 5:45 pm on the Ram Katha Kunj terrace facing the edifice. My arguments are based on what I saw and heard. The Home Minister's reply in Parliament is based on what he must have read and heard second hand as well as what he must have imagined.

In the course of his reply, Mr Chidambaram inter-alia said, "Looking back, I can say it was a wrong political judgement. Narasimha Rao paid the price for making the judgement. The Congress paid a price for that." In what way was Narasimha Rao's a wrong judgement? If the edifice had survived, the Hindu movement would have continued to excite mass emotions. Whereas with its demolition their cause célèbre disappeared. The fact that Narasimha Rao had pre-planned it, calculated it cold-bloodedly is evidenced by his sponsoring and getting passed the 1991 Places of Worship Act. This was a thought through objective and to call it a wrong political judgement is patently wrong.

The Home Minister was correct when he said that the kar sevaks made holes in the domes from inside, tied ropes and brought them down. I also confirm that kar sevaks used crowbars to disconnect the domes from the flat roof. Where Mr Chidambaram is incorrect is that these kar sevaks belonged to neither the BJP nor the VHP. Most of the operatives were probably employees of the PWD. Had they been laymen they would not have been able to operate effectively hooks, axes and crowbars; to be able to bring down three large domes in the course of a few hours. The decisive evidence was the fact that they did not permit their photographs to be taken. In fact, five photographers were manhandled and their cameras smashed when they persisted with photographing the men. Activists and political workers, like members of the VHP or BJP, would have been proud to have themselves snapped in the act of pursuing their mission. Two of these photographers eventually took refuge on the roof of Ram Katha Kunj. They told me that under no circumstances were the kar sevaks prepared to be photographed. They even refused to come out from under the domes and be photographed outside.

It was clear that the Kalyan Singh Government, not the BJP as a party, was working in tandem with the Prime Minister's establishment. This explains the use of Government sevaks without intervention by the Central Reserve Police Force of whom there were reportedly 15 battalions. A senior Uttar Pradesh Police officer told me that she had instructions not to intervene unless human life was in danger. Incidentally, no Minister or MLA of Uttar Pradesh seemed to be present in Ayodhya on that winter day.

The first dome collapsed at 2.30 pm, there was no Central intervention. Again there was no Central action when the second dome fell at 3.40 pm. Only after the last dome came down at 4.30 pm was President's rule imposed. When I left the Ram Katha Kunj terrace at 5.45 pm, it was cold and dark but I could see that the walls of the edifice were still standing. At 10.00 pm Narasimha Rao addressed the nation, condemning the demolition of the edifice and promising to re-build the masjid all over again. If his intentions were earnest, the domes could have been re-constructed in a matter of months.

Instead, in the course of the next 60 hours of President's rule, the 10 standing walls were brought down; all the rubble was removed by the morning of December 9; and the idols of Ram Lalla installed in a tent. The walls were 30 feet tall, mostly three feet wide; there was the plinth plus the chabutra and the rubble of the fallen domes. In short, the rubble accumulated by the demolition of some 15,000 cubic feet of stone and mortar totalled several thousand tonnes. How could the demolition and removal of rubble have been possible without the help of CPWD professional? For this the responsibility must squarely rest with the Union Government because immediately after the third dome fell, President's rule had been declared and the Governor had taken charge.

Mr Chidambaram has traced the genesis of the demolition to the then chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh who was merely a partner in the game. The genesis actually lay in the contents of the Places of Worship Act passed by Parliament. The Home Minister of India has enormous resources at his disposal. He could have obtained his own independent information from Ayodhya and elsewhere, but he did not. Instead, he chose to rely on Mr Liberhan's report while replying to the debate. Why?

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