Hindu Vivek Kendra
A RESOURCE CENTER FOR THE PROMOTION OF HINDUTVA
   
CHAPTER - IV
THE CONDUCT OF DIFFERENT GOVERNMENTS, POLITICAL PARTIES, LEADERS AND PRIME MINISTERS

1.1. Save the BJP, which was the only national political party to take a clear and firm stand on the issue of Ramajanmabhoomi Temple - and this the BJP did, as early as June 1989, when it came out in support of the Ayodhya movement - no other political party took any firm stand on Ramajanmabhoomi. Every government, leader and political party was calculating, and competing with each other for Muslim votes.
 

The Congress Government under Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 and 1989 

2.1. The Rajiv Gandhi Government which was the first one to deal with the Ayodhya movement, responded only where there was a deadline.

2.2. When a deadline was set by the Ayodhya movement leaders for opening the locks by March 8, 1986, someone moved the Munsif Court first, and thereafter the District Court in appeal - all in a matter of just 12 days - and got a judicial order, directing the doors to be unlocked. This happened when the Government confessed to the court that if the locks were opened there would be no law and order problem. This was precisely the reason why for 36 years the court had had to keep the deity under lock and key.

2.3. The decision of the Court was implemented within hours, under the gaze of TV cameras of the Doordarshan staff.

2.4. Again, when the movement had set the Shilanyas date as 10th November, 1989, the Rajiv Government declared on 8th November, 1989, that the Shilanyas site was undisputed, although only a day earlier the Allahabad High Court had held the Shilanyas site as within the disputed site. Thus, the Shilanyas was held within and as per the deadline set by the Ayodhya movement leaders.

2.5. Immediately thereafter, on 11th November, 1989, the Rajiv Government ordered the construction to stop, and prevented the Kar Seva. The Government's decision with regard to Ayodhya had nothing to do with the merit of the issue; it was only prompted by electoral expediency. Thus, the political strategy of the Rajiv Government was to permit the Shilanyas, for the Hindus, and to prevent the Kar Seva, for the Muslims. The Rajiv Government could see the Ayodhya movement only as an electoral issue. 

2.6. Finally, Shri. Rajiv Gandhi started the election campaign for the 1989 parliamentary elections from Ayodhya, promising to establish Rama Rajya - again an electoral theatre.

So much for the party which ceaselessly charges that the BJP is politicising Rama and Ramajanmabhoomi.
 

Shri V.P. Singh, his Janata Dal, and his Government during 1989-1990

3.1. During the period from Ma 1989 to November 1989, talks were held between the, Janata Dal and the BJP at different levels, for the purpose of working out seat adjustments between the two parties. In the initial stages, Shri V.P. Singh was averse to seat adjustments with the BJP in UP and Bihar on the ground that, in those States, if the Janata Dal was to have seat adjustment-with the BJP, the Muslims might move away from JD, and over to the Congress. Shri Singh had no ideological objection, nor did he consider the BJP unacceptable. He wanted the BJP support, as well as Muslim votes. The BJP made it very clear, that it would have adjustments everywhere, or nowhere at all. 

3.2. To break the deadlock, an important meeting was arranged at the Express Towers in Bombay. The participants in the meeting included Shri R.N. Goenka, Chairman, Indian Express, Shri Bhaurao Deoras, and Prof. Rajendra Singh from RSS, Shri Nanaji Deshmukh, Shri Prabhash Joshi, journalist, and Shri S. Gurumurthy who was a close advisor of late Shri R.N. Goenka. It was in that meeting, that Shri V.P. Singh said: Are Bhai, Masjid hai Kahan? Yeh to abhi mandir hai (Where is the mosque in Ayodhya; it is already a temple). Pooja is going on. It is so dilapidated that if you give a push, it will fall. Why does one have to demolish it?" This was the meeting to which Shri Arun Shourie referred in an article which was published in October 1990.

3.3. During the discussions, Shri V.P. Singh wanted only two assurances from the Sangh Parivar - one, the Shilanyas should be symbolic, and two, there would be no joint campaigning by the BJP and the Janata Dal. So much for the secular stand - seat adjustment, yes; joint campaign, no.

3.4. After the Janata Dal-led National Front Government assumed office at the Centre, Shri V.P. Singh secured four months time from the Ayodhya movement leaders, promising to solve the problem in that period. During this period, the Mulayam Singh Government assumed office in Uttar Pradesh. The two governments began working at cross purposes. Shri V.P. Singh and Shri Mulayam Singh were competing for the same constituency - the Muslim votes, with the result that even as V.P.Singh was working for a compromise on the issue, Mulayam Singh began a vicious campaign against the Ramajanmabhoomi movement.
 

Shri V.P. Singh involves selected Sants and Moulvis to exclude the BJP 

3.5. Shri V.P. Singh first unsuccessfully tried to outdo the VHP, and the BJP, by attempting to involve some Hindu and Muslim religious leaders, and by evolving a compromise formula. The emissary to deal with the Hindu Sants was Shri Krishna Kant, the Governor of Andhra Pradesh. Shri Krishna Kant tried to involve Shri Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakoti Math to head a Trust to which the disputed structure and the site would be handed over, on the condition that the Temple would be built by the Trust without disturbing the existing structure. Shri Ali Mian, the influential Muslim theologian from Uttar Pradesh, came down to Kanchipuram along with Shri Krishna Kant, to meet the Paramacharya of Kanchi, but the latter did not meet him. Therefore, Shri Ali Mian met Shri Jayendra Saraswati and in the meeting, it was suggested on behalf of the Government that political elements should be kept out, and religious leaders on both sides should come together to resolve the issue. Pursuing this line, Shri Jayendra Saraswati issued a press statement and addressed a press conference in Kanchipuram, stating that political elements should be kept out of the Ayodhya issue, and the Government should call a meeting of religious leaders of both sides to find a durable and peaceful solution. This Jayendra Saraswati/Ali Mian effort was, in fact, lauded by the National Integration Council meeting later.

3.6. The move through Shri Ali Mian/Jayendra Saraswati is corroborated by the testimony of Pujya Shri Vishvesha Teertha Swamiji of Pejawar Math, Udipi, on how during the time of Shri V.P. Singh as Prime Minister he was involved in the negotiations.

a. The following persons contacted/met Pujya Swamiji of Pejawar:

i. Shri Kishore Kunal, an Officer on Special Duty, visited Swamiji and invited him for a probable meeting in Delhi.

ii. Shri Ramakrishna Hegde and Shri S.R. Bommai spoke to Swamiji and said that Shri Krishna Kant, Governor of Andra Pradesh, wanted to meet Swamiji.

iii. Later, Shri Krishna Kant visited Udipi and placed the following suggestions before Swamiji:

* Creation of a Trust under the leadership of Pujya Shri Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswatiji and handing over the disputed area to the Trust.

* Construction of the Temple leaving the disputed structure 'as it is'.

* Building a wall between the temple and the disputed structure.

In response the Swamiji said that he would have to consult others and then only a decision could be taken.

b. Afterwards Shri Krishna Kant came to the Vidyapeetha in Bangalore and took Swamiji by a special aircraft to Delhi.

c. Before going to the meeting at Delhi, Swamiji met Shri Ashok Singhal and others belonging to the VHP.

d. At the meeting, Swamiji suggested that

i. the disputed area be handed over to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and no new trust be created.

ii. minor corrections be made in the reconstruction plan 

* retaining the disputed structure 'as it is'; and 

* constructing a temple on pillars erected around the structure.

Shri V.P. Singh accepted the suggestion, and desired that Swamiji should convince the VHP.

e. Later S/Shri Krishna Kant, Subodh Kant Sahay, Union Minister and Yunus Saleem, Governor of Bihar, convened a meeting of Hindu Sants and Muslim Ulemas and discussed the issue in two sittings.

i. The Hindu Sants said that the Muslims should voluntarily and in the interest of harmony withdraw their claim on Ramajanmasthan, and that the Temple could be constructed without demolishing the existing structure. In such a situation, there can be no victor or vanquished. 

ii. In response the Muslims desired that a place be given to them for prayers which demand the Hindu Sants accepted.

iii. The Muslims then asked for some time to examine the proposal, but, wanted the Kar Seva stopped.

iv. The Hindu Saints said that Kar Seva could not be stopped, but could be done at another place leaving the disputed structure as it was.

v. This was not acceptable to the Muslims who asked for some time to think it over.

With this ended Pujya Pejawar Swamiji's involvement. Obviously, Swamiji was unaware of the subsequent developments as also of the circumstances leading to the issue of the ordinance to acquire the Ramjanmabhoomi and its withdrawal, because, the ordinance move was negotiated through another channel, which has been explained hereinafter.
 

Shri V.P. Singh resorts to political efforts

3.7. The all Sant-Moulvi move could not go very far, on account of Muslim opposition to the Sants' proposals and because Pujya Shri Jayendra Saraswati nominated Mahant Avaidyanath, an important leader of the Ayodhya movement, as his representative to pursue the proposal with the Government. Shocked by the new development the Government hurriedly abandoned the move to eliminate the politicians and involve the religious leaders. While this was the inside story, to the outside world the propaganda was that the BJP was involving the Sants.

3.8. Even as Shri V.P. Singh was trying for a compromise, his competitor, Mulayam Singh, was organising the Muslims and holding highly provocative rallies in UP, and threatening that not even a bird would be allowed to fly over the disputed structure. It was under these circumstances that Shri L.K. Advani undertook the Somnath-Ayodhya Rathyatra. The Rathyatra drew unprecedented response.
 

Political efforts leading to the issue of the take-over Ordinance:

3.9. It was then that Shri V.P. Singh called Shri S. Gurumurthy, on 15th October, 1990, a Monday. The two sat in four sessions for over 4 hours from the evening to well past midnight. Shri Gurumurthy suggested that the Government should acquire the entire disputed area, and hand it over to the VHP Trust but retain the disputed structure with a 30 ft. area around it under its title and possession, and refer the issue whether there was a preexisting Hindu structure for judicial opinion to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution. Shri V.P. Singh readily accepted the suggestion. When Shri Gurumurthy asked him whether this could be communicated to the RSS-VHP as the decision - and a final one of the Government, V.P.Singh said that he was saying so as the Prime Minister. He also said that the movement of the Karsevaks to Ayodhya should stop or be slowed down. Shri Gurumurthy communicated this to the RSS-VHP and relayed back their acceptance to the Prime Minister.

On 18th October, two sets of meetings took place, and definite steps were taken. The then Railway Minister, Shri George Fernandes and the then Information Minister, Shri P. Upendra met Shri Ashok Singhal at the RSS headquarters, Keshavkunj in New Delhi. The Ministers said that the Government proposed to bring forth an Ordinance on the issue. By this the government would hand over to the Sri Ramajanmabhoomi Nyas the entire land except the Garbha Griha - that is, the disputed structure. Shri Ashok Singhal maintained that no agreement could be reached till the Government handed over the entire land to the Hindus.

The same day Shri V.P. Singh invited Shri Govindacharya, Shri Arun Jaitley, the then Additional Solicitor General, and a journalist to discuss the Ayodhya issue. They urged that the Government acquire the entire disputed area, retain the disputed structure as well as land of 30 feet around it, hand over the rest to the Ramajanmabhoomi Nyas, and request the Supreme Court under Article 143 to determine whether there was a preexisting Hindu structure. After the discussion an Additional Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office was called around midnight and asked to initiate steps to implement the proposal.

Accordingly a three point proposal and draft Ordinance was prepared at night. At 5 a.m. a committee of service officials met at the Cabinet Secretary's residence and finalised the draft. At 10 a.m. the Cabinet met at the Prime Minister's residence and approved the Ordinance and the three point solution. Since the Ordinance had to undergo whetting from several angles it was not released immediately. 

3.10. On Thursday, 18th October, 1990, Shri V.P. Singh called Shri Gurumurthy, who was then in Madras, to go over to Delhi and, accordingly, he reached Delhi on the morning of Friday, 19th October, 1990. On the forenoon of Friday, there was a meeting at the Sundar Nagar Guest House of the Indian Express in which Shri L.K. Advani who was to proceed to Dhanbad to continue his Rathyatra, was present. Also present were S/Shri R.N.Goenka, S. Gurumurthy, and some other friends of the newspaper. Shri Advani explicitly said that it was not his intention that the Government must fall, but that, if the Ordinance proposal went through, and the land around the disputed structure was handed over, with or without the VHP nominee as the Receiver of the disputed structure, he would support it. When S/Shri S. Gurumurthy and Arun Jaitley met Shri Advani at his residence even as he was preparing to go to the railway station, he reiterated the same stand, saying that the Ordinance was a small but welcome step, and added that even if the Government appointed a neutral receiver for the structure, he would not mind it. 

3.11. In the afternoon, Shri S. Gurumurthy spoke to the Prime Minister. By then a visible change had taken place. He said that not just the disputed structure, but the disputed land also would be in the possession of the Government, and would not be handed over to the Ayodhya movement. When Shri Gurumurthy said that that was not the understanding, the Prime Minister asked him to meet him in the evening at his residence. Shri V.P. Singh told Shri Gurumurthy that Shri L.K. Advani should defer the Rathyatra by a day, so that a solution was arrived at. And after that, Shri V.P. Singh said, "he would go along with Shri Advani to Ayodhya for Kar Seva". When this was communicated to Shri Advani, he said that his presence was not required, and if the Ordinance proposal as originally understood was given effect to, that would be agreeable to him.

3.12. In the evening, there was again a marathon session at Shri V.P. Singh's residence extending to well beyond 9 p.m. Shri V.P. Singh told Shri S. Gurumurthy that he should discuss the matter with his colleagues, and that he had briefed Shri George Fernandes. S/Shri Arun Nehru, George Fernandes, Ajit Singh and Dinesh Goswami, all Ministers, were present throughout the discussion, and besides Shri S Gurumurthy, Shri Arun Jaitley and a leading journalist were also present. Shri V.P. Singh was in and out of the meeting, obviously meeting several persons in different rooms, at the same time. The Law Minister, Dinesh Goswami, said that because of the multiplicity of the suits and hundreds of issues involved, it was not possible to issue the Ordinance; in fact, it was impossible to legislate on the subject because of pending cases. It was explained to him by S/Shri Arun Jaitley and S. Gurumurthy that the hundreds of issues fell under just three heads - one, whether Rama was born at the site; two, whom did the different lands belong to; and three, whether there was a preexisting Hindu structure. It was explained to him that the first aspect was not capable of judicial or even legislative determination, the second aspect was ca able of legislative action under the undisputed power of compulsory acquisition, and the third aspect was capable of judicial opinion or judicial verdict. Shri Arun Nehru said that, if the explanation was correct, the Ordinance should be issued. The Ordinance and the scheme were issued to the press late at night.
 

The decision to withdraw the Ordinance, even before the people of India knew about its issue

3.13. Even before the public of India could read the news of the Ordinance next morning, Shri V.P. Singh had virtually decided to withdraw the measure following, as was widely believed, a threat from Mulayam Singh that he would not allow the Ordinance to be implemented. The BJP had cautiously welcomed the move, in the absence of any specific scheme and the RSS-VHP had accepted the solution of the disputed land being handed over to the VHP, and the issue of disputed structure being referred to the Supreme Court for legal opinion. The movement of Karsevaks had been slowed, down. Now they felt completely' let down.

3.14. The subsequent developments - the withdrawal of the Ordinance on 21st October, 1990, the arrest of Shri L.K. Advani in Bihar on Tuesday, 23rd October morning, 'and the historic events at Ayodhya on 30th October, which made the unprecedented security at Ayodhya irrelevant - are a matter of public knowledge.

3.15. When his government was voted out, Shri V.P. Singh proclaimed that it was because he stood for social justice, backward classes and the minorities. But the truth was that his efforts to solve the Ayodhya issue had been sabotaged by his own Partymen, and V.P. Singh had himself capitulated to the pressure of the lobby of the Imams. There was no talk of backward classes or the minorities when he was making the compromise efforts.
 

The Chandrashekhar Government

4.1. The Chandrashekhar Government brought the leaders of the Ayodhya movement and the leaders of the Babri Action groups, face to face, and specified the issue - whether a mosque was built after demolishing a Hindu structure - for determination by evidence and debate. The VHP as well as the Masjid groups produced evidence, but the subsequent meetings failed, because the Masjid representatives first sought to defer the debate and, later, their Marxist consultants failed to turn up at the next meeting, thus virtually conceding their inability to face the debate. But when the minority Government, dependent on the support of the Congress was finally toppled by its very creator, the Congress, on the charge of two constables spying on Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the initiative taken by Shri Chandrashekhar could not be pursued.
 

The present Congress Government under Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao

5.1. Not many people know that for the present Prime Minister, the Ayodhya issue is a familiar one as he was the Chairman of a sub-committee of the cabinet (Group of Ministers), constituted by the Rajiv Gandhi Government, to work for a solution to the Ayodhya issue. This was as far back as 1988. So, the intricacies of the Ayodhya issue should have been known to the present Prime Minister. And yet, despite the fact that he assumed office in June 1991, and even though, in the general elections, the Ayodhya issue had become central, and the BJP had made a commitment in its election Manifesto to construct the temple at Ayodhya, Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao did nothing for over a year after assuming office. Nothing happened for 12 months upto May 1992 when the Sants met him, and even upto July 1992 he did precious little, although he had promised that he would proceed from where the previous Prime Minister Shri Chandrashekhar had left.

5.2. When the acquisition of the adjacent land made by the Kalyan Singh Government was questioned in a Writ in the Allahabad High Court, and the Allahabad High Court which was expected to give the judgment by December 1991, delayed the decision month after month, the Dharma Sansad met and decided to resume the Kar Seva from 9th July, 1992. It was thereafter that the Prime Minister, at the suggestion of Shri L.K. Advani and Shri A. B. Vajpayee, called the Sants and secured from them three months time to resolve the issue. The Prime Minister constituted a Special Cell -under Shri Naresh Chandra to collect the evidence on the Temple and to monitor the situation. How the Prime Minister handled the situation and how he tried the same devices as Shri V.P. Singh, to divide the movement, to eliminate the VHP, and to force a confrontation by holding the Courts as a shield and also as a weapon, even while apparently angling for a solution through discussions, but in effect only prolonging the debate ad infinitum, are discussed separately as developments and circumstances leading to the suspended Kar Seva in July 1992 (Chapter V) and the Kar Seva and demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992 (Chapter VI).
 

What do the records prepared by the present Government show about the conduct of the earlier governments?

6.1. The notes on the compilation of evidence and on the dialogue made by the officials of the Government of India during the VHP-AIBMAC interaction between December 1990 and February 1991, and the background note prepared by the core group for the VHP-AIBMAC dialogue in October 1992 brought out some significant aspects.
 

The records on the efforts of the different governments from July 1988 onwards

6.2. The summary of the efforts of the different governments fell in the following categories:

a. The efforts of the Rajiv Gandhi Government between July 1988 and November 1989.

b. The efforts of the V.P. Singh Government during July-October 1990.

c. The efforts of the Chandrashekhar Government from December 1990 to February 1991.

The summary is purely the government version and yet it is being presented for fuller understanding of the issues involved and the efforts of the government to resolve them. As would be evident, the Rajiv Gandhi Government had kept some record of the discussions which were mostly confidential, while the V.P. Singh Government kept virtually no record of the confidential discussions it had had with different persons. In contrast to both, the Chandrashekhar Government had maintained minutes of the meetings with different groups which were open and formal meetings. The official summary was prepared as a background to the VHP-AIBMAC talks. The preparation and existence of this summary is also confirmed in the White Paper on Ayodhya issued by the Narasimha Rao Government.
 

The official summary of the record of the Ayodhya affair under the Rajiv Gandhi Government from July 1988 to November 1989

6.3. The secret background note prepared in 1992 summarised the discussions held from July 1988 to November 1989 as under:

A detailed note prepared by die Ministry of Home Affairs on the above subject is attached. 

"In brief, the urgency of holding negotiations was felt around July 1988 keeping in view' the accentuation of the controversy and the rival calls of a 'mini march' proposed by the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) to Ayodhya and a 'Rath Yatra' by the RJB (Ramjanmabhoomi) protagonists to Ayodhya. The Home Minister held discussions on 30.7.1988 with the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and S/Shri Syed Shahabuddin and Sulaiman Sait, MPs. Shri Shahabuddin and Shri Sait were persuaded to call off the proposed mini march. Later, however another call of a long march to Ayodhya on 14.10.1988 was given. In August and September, 1988 the Home Minister held meetings with Muslim MPs of Congress (I), leaders of the Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee (BMMCC) and BMAC as well as with the representatives of the RJB Mukti Yagya Samiti (RJBMYS). While both the sides said that they would not be averse to a negotiated settlement, the positions taken by them appeared to be difficult to reconcile.

On 12.10.1988, the Home Minister held a meeting with the BMMCC led by Shri Syed Shahabuddin. After this meeting the BMMCC agreed to postpone the proposed long march to Ayodhya on 14.10.1988 on an assurance from the Government that it would expedite the bearing of the title suits in the event of a negotiated settlement not coming through.

Further discussions were held in February and March 1989 including discussions with leaders of opposition parties in Parliament. While continuing the efforts to seek a mutually acceptable solution of the problem through discussion, the Government of Uttar Pradesh was also advised to take measures for expediting the legal process.

Tension started rising over the RJB-BM dispute in September 1989 due to the plan of the VHP to carry consecrated bricks (Ram Shilas) from all over the country to Ayodhya and lay the foundation of the temple on 9.11.1989. The Home Minister reviewed the situation with the Chief Minister of UP on 10.9.89 and on 27.9.89 visited Lucknow for another similar review. Discussions were held with the VHP to persuade them to carry out their programme of Ram Shila Processions and the Shilanyas in a manner that would not disturb the peace and would respect the orders of the Court given on 14.8.1989 regarding maintenance of the status quo.

The office bearers of the VHP issued a signed statement on 27.9.89 giving such assurance (Annex-III of MHA note).

The Shilanyas ceremony took place at the selected site on 9.11.89. Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh opined that this site did not fall within the disputed land covered by injunction of the High Court issued on 14.8.89 as elaborated by a clarificatory order dated 7.11.89.

The highlights of the detailed note of the Home Ministry referred to in the summary are as under:

a. On 30th July, 1988 the Home Minister held a review meeting with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister over the tension building on the Ayodhya issue. Surprisingly, the review meeting of the Government is attended by two Muslim MPs belonging to opposition parties. S/Shri Syed Shahabuddin and Sulaiman Sait.

The Home Ministry records:

On 30th July 1988, the Home Minister held a review meeting with the Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh to discuss the communal tension building over the issue; it was also attended by Shri Syed Shahabuddin and Shri Sulaiman Sait, MPs. While conveying Government's concern over the proposed mini march of the BMAC, Home Minister and Chief Minister, UP impressed upon the two MPs to withdraw the march. The two MPs pointed out that the decision to hold the mini-march was taken to highlight ft strong feelings of the Muslims over the undue delay in the resolution of this issue and the failure of the authorities to take any initiative in the matter. It was explained to the MPs that some delay was inevitable in such a sensitive and delicate matter. After discussion, an agreed press release (Annex-I) was given... From the tone of the further notes it appears that instead of the mini-march, BMAC decided to hold a long march later, i.e., on 14th October 1988.

So the result of the review meeting was a long march instead of a mini-march. 

Again surprisingly "the agreed press release" referred to in the Home Ministry note is not the press release to which the two muslin, MPs are parties. It is government's press release. The press release read as under:

A review meeting was held between the CM UP and Home Minister on 30.7.1988, to discuss the tension building up over the issue of Ram Janama Bhoomi and Babri Masjid. After the meeting Home Minister issued the following statement:

The Government is determined to take necessary steps to find an acceptable solution through negotiations and urges upon all concerned to respond positively to the process of negotiations. The Government offers its good offices to the interested parties in this respect. In the unlikely event of negotiated settlement not coming through, the Government will take steps to expedite the legal process through the High Court to get the final decision in the matter. I therefore earnestly appeal to all concerned to give up agitational approach and cooperate with the Government in finding an acceptable solution.

Thus what the press release terms as the review meeting of the Union Home Ministry and the UP Chief Minister is really a meeting of the two with two Muslim MPs.

b. On 17th August, 1988 the Home Minister held a meeting with Muslim Congress (I) MPs, where the following points were discussed:

* expedition of judicial process through a special bench to hear the matter.

* early action to fix a cut-off date in regard to the ownership of the religious places to avoid future controversies.

It is public knowledge that these points of the Muslim Congress (I) MPs were implemented.

c. The next meeting of the Union Home Minister and UP Chief Minister was with the Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee and Babri Masjid Action Committee. The Home Ministry note on this meeting is significant.

The BMMCC representatives demanded that the idols should be taken out of the mosque. Some of-them stated that a negotiated settlement was not possible, as the Hindu hardliners would not budge from their known stand. They held out that if the issue is not resolved peacefully, Government should expedite the legal process and some visible action should be taken, otherwise the long march on 14 October 1988 would not be withdrawn. They also expressed a preference for referring the title suits to a three-Member Bench of any court in South India and the Judges constituting the bench should preferably not belong to either the Hindu or the Muslim community. They did not seem to favour any solution which would mean the continued use of the structure for idol worship and giving up the Muslim claim over the mosque. They, however, did not seem averse to a negotiated settlement.

d. The first meeting of the Home Minister with the Ramjanmabhoomi Mukti Yagna Samiti was on 1st September, 1988. The Home Minister's impression of the meeting is as under:

The Home Minister's impression after the meeting was that the RJBMYS representatives wanted to convey their strong feelings regarding the RJB-BM issue as also the Varanasi and Mathura issues and was quite resolute not to yield ground on the RJB issue. They also held the view that a legal solution of this problem would not be effective as it was related to centuries old faith of the Hindus. They were, however, not averse to holding talks with the Masjid protagonists provided they withdrew their call for the march. Subsequently, on 12 October 1988, Home Minister held a meeting with the BMMCC members led by Shri Syed Shahabuddin. An assurance was given to them that Government will expedite the hearing of the title suits in the event of a negotiated settlement not coming through. Thereupon, the BMMCC agreed to postpone the march proposed on 14 October 1988. A press note was released.

e. The Home Ministry note says: "There are no notes relating to any development that might have taken place between 14 October 1988 and 31 January 1989."

f. The next meeting of the Home Minister is again with Shri Syed Shahabuddin on 1 February 1989 - this time as desired by the Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi. The Home Ministry note on the meeting is also very significant.

On 1 February 1989, as desired by Prime Minister, Home Minister held a meeting with Shri Syed Shahabuddin and others. Home Minister clarified that the Government had not gone back on its assurance to expedite the judicial process in the event of the negotiated settlement not coming through, and drew his attention to the advice given to the Government of Uttar Pradesh on 25 January 1989 to take steps for expediting the legal process. Home Minister denied that Government had shown any vacillation or had adopted dilatory tactics. Home Minister drew Shri Shahabuddin's attention to the following points made in his representation to the Prime Minister:

a. Enactment of a law to protect the status of all places of worship as on 15th August 1947.

b. Release of those arrested/detained in connection with the Babri Masjid agitation.

c. Issue of a public statement by the Home Minister or by Chief Minister, UP, on the threat of VHP to demolish the Babri Masjid and to construct a Temple on its site, and

d. Action against inflammatory, provocative and defamatory statements. publications, slogans, speeches, posters etc. directed against any community.

Home Minister made it clear that no commitment had ever been given to Shri Shahabuddin on the above issues; however, he pointed out the action taken/being taken by Government in regard to these issues. After the meeting, Home Minister seems to have felt that the settlement of the dispute through the judicial process was perhaps the only alternative available since the discussions with the concerned parties had not led to the emergence of common ground. Accordingly, he informally advised the Chief Minister, UP that he may like to approach the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court on the question of the constitution of a Special Bench of three judges for hearing the tide suits.

So whatever Shri Syed Shahabuddin wanted was being or had been done although "no commitment was given to him".

The Home Minister's view recorded as early as February 1989 makes it evident that judicial process was the only way out as there was no common ground for negotiated settlement. So the UP Chief Minister was to approach the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court to constitute a Special Bench.

g. The next meeting of the Home Minister was with the Leaders of Opposition parties in Parliament on 29th March, 1989. The Home Ministry note reads:

On 29th March 1989, a meeting with the leaders of Opposition parties in Parliament was held to discuss the RJB-BM issue. Besides the Home Minister, S/Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao, K.C. Pant, H.K.L. Bhagat, Dr. Rajendra Kumari Bajpai and two Ministers of State in the Home Ministry were present. No representative of the BJP attended even though a request had been sent to Shri L.K. Advani. Home Minister's note dated 29th March 1989 to Prime Minister indicates that "At the outset, Shri P.V. Narsimha Rao set the tone for the meeting by stating that the problem was above political party and political persuasion and should be viewed in national perspective. Regretting that the issue could not be settled at the local level by the exercise of local initiative, he observed that a way out had to be found for defusing the situation.

The Home Minister briefly explained the various aspects of the issue and the efforts made by the Central Government in cooperation with the Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh to seek a mutually acceptable solution of the problem through discussions. It was further pointed out that since the discussions had not led to the emergence of any common ground, the Government of Uttar Pradesh have been advised to expedite the legal process. He further referred to the grave situation, created by the threat to demolish the Babri Masjid and start construction of the Temple.

Here again the consensus was to expedite the legal process and the UP Government was advised accordingly. This again as early as March 1989.

h. The Home Ministry Note says "No notes are available relating to the period between March 1989 and September 1989".

i. The developments from September 1989 to November 1989 have been summarised by the Home Ministry as under:

Around September 1989, tensions again started rising over the RJB-BM dispute due to the plans of the VHP to carry "Ram Shilas" from all over the country to Ayodhya and lay the foundation stone of the Temple on 9th November 1989. The Home Minister held a meeting on 10th September 1989 with the Chief Minister to review the situation. It was felt that the best course would be to impress upon the VHP not to force the issue as the matter was pending before the Allahabad High Court. Simultaneously, the State Administration should take measures in relation to the law and order situation. On 27th September 1989, Home Minister visited Lucknow and reviewed the law and order situation in the context of the VHP plan. The Chief Minister was apprehensive about using force for maintenance of law and order and indicated his preference for a smooth observance of the VHP programme by reaching an understanding with prominent Muslim and Hindu leaders. Home Minister indicated that there may not be any objection to the VHP programme provided the Court's order regarding status quo was not violated and the VHP cooperated with the authorities and agreed to certain changes, particularly in regard to tee routes of the Ram Shila processions and the location of the foundation-laying ceremony. Home Minister's impression was that the State Government were not yet clear regarding the approach to be adopted for dealing with the situation. However, now that they knew that the Central Government would not be averse to permit the Shilanyas in a controlled manner, the State Government would review their strategy and action plan. Home Minister also held a meeting with important Hindu leaders where Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh was also present. After detailed discussion, an understanding was reached with the VHP, a copy of which is at Annex III. It would be seen that the VHP had given an undertaking to abide by the directive of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court given on 14th August 1989 regarding the maintenance of the status quo.

Home Minister again visited Lucknow on 8th November 1989 and reviewed the law and Order situation in the context of the VHP's Shilanyas programme with the Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh and State officers. During the visit, a meeting was also held with senior VHP leaders. The VHP leaders gave an assurance that they stand by their earlier commitment of cooperating with the authorities and abiding by the High Court's order of 14, August 1989, and further they would also comply with the High Court's order of 7 November 1989 in which the High Court had clarified that the order of 14 August 1989 applied to the entire property in dispute in the suit in so far as it was included within the boundary of EFGH in the site plan attached to the plaint. The Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh explained the implications of the clarificatory order of the High Court and observed that the Shilanyas site was outside the limits of EFGH. The VHP leaders also maintained that the Shilanyas site was not within the purview of the High Court's order. The State Government authorities intimated that the site was at a distance of about 100ft. from the boundary injuncted by the Court. After the meeting, Shri Syed Shahabuddin called on Home Minister and apprised him of the result of the meeting. He seemed satisfied with this development A press note was issued.

As is known, subsequently, the Shilanyas ceremony took place at the selected site.

The Press Note referred to in the Home Ministry's note is significant, particularly the following extract:

The clarificatory order of the High Court had said that their order of injunction dated 14.8.89 "was in respect of the entire property mentioned in the suit, including plot No.586, in so far included within the boundary described by letters E,F,G,H in the site plan." The said site plan is part of the court record in the plaint of the Suit 12 of 1961 filed by the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs U.P. and others. The site of Shilanyas is clearly outside the limits of E F G H in the site plan. This position was explained by the Advocate General of U.P., in the melting.

Shri Shahabuddin met the Home Minister at Lucknow immediately after the meeting to apprise himself of the result of the meeting. 

It is evident from the above that the UP government was against use of force even during 1989 Shilanyas and in the decision to permit Shilanyas even Shri Shahabuddin was involved.
 

The role of Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1987 - held back in the 1992 summary of events

6.4. Significantly the summary of the efforts of the different Governments, particularly the one relating to the Rajiv Gandhi period, holds back a vital truth, namely that, Shri Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet had appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao as early as 27th April, 1987 to find a solution. The information to the extent available indicates that the GoM met at least twice - on 21st May, 1987 and 8th October, 1987 and resolved to solve the problem through local initiatives and to prepare the local opinion for judicial verdict by insulating it from the impact of the controversies. Why was this withheld in the 1992 summary? Was it because, the disclosure would have brought out the fact that Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao was not, like Shri V.P. Singh or Shri Chandrashekhar, new to the problem and to the management of it and was therefore better placed than those two Prime Ministers? However, the Home Minister's Note of 29th March, 1989 to the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi contains the admission of Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao about his failure to localise the problem without of course saying that it was his own failure. To quote Shri Rao in the words of Shri Buta Singh:

"Regretting that the issue could not be settled at the local level by the exercise of local initiative he (Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao) observed that a way out has to be found for defusing the situation." 

Except to make it appear that the present Prime Minister was not involved in the past, save in a meeting with the opposition leaders on 29th March, 1989, there is no reason why his role as the Chairman of the Group of Ministers to deal with and solve the Ayodhya problem should have been suppressed from the summary made in 1992 about efforts in the past by different Governments to solve the problem.
 

The official summary of the Government records during Shri V.P. Singh's tenure from July 1990 to October 1990

6.5. The summary made by the core group on the negotiations relating to the Ayodhya issue under Shri V.P. Singh's Government (referred to by the ministry as the First Phase of the negotiations) is as under:

The available records of the Home Ministry contain very little material relating to the first phase of the negotiations. The available material indicates that a series of meetings were held by Shri Subodh Kant Sahay, the then MOS (Home) in July 1990. The list of people who were invited for discussions with Shri Sahay is at Annex-I. No official record is available on what transpired at these meetings.

Informally, some officers who were involved in the discussions at that time, have informed that the leaders of ft Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) and Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee (BMMCC) were called for separate meetings with Shri Subodh Kant Sahay to know their views. The leaders suggested various solutions ranging from shifting of the disputed shrine (Hindu position) to tie removal of the idols from the disputed building (Muslim position). However, no tangible progress is said to have been achieved in these meetings. Reportedly, efforts were then made to contact important religious leaders individually in order to find a negotiated settlement. These religious leaders included Shri Syed Abdulla Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid and Swami Jayendra Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Kanchi Peeth, both of whom also issued appeals on Doordarshan.

The RJB-BM issue was discussed at length in the National Integration Council, at its meeting held at Madras on 22 September 1990 and a resolution was passed a copy of which is at Annex-II. This resolution, inter aria welcomed the initiative taken by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi and Janab Ali Mian of Nadwa. It is reported that the Shahi Imam was not pleased with the mention of Ali Mian's name and the omission of his own name. In any case, this meeting of the NIC suffered in prestige and effectiveness because of its boycott by the BJP.

Reportedly, during this phase of the negotiations, two proposals were under active consideration. One was the maintenance of the status-quo with the implications that there shall be no alteration or damage to the existing structure, but the Hindu worship of the idols placed therein will continue. The second proposal visualised the 'sharing' of the disputed shrine, with the Hindus to be given the Central and Southern portions of the shrine and the Muslims its Northern portion. Both communities could construct their places of worship according to their own plans in their respective area. In the end, however, an agreed formula did not emerge.

At a later stage, two Governors viz., Shri Krishna Kant of Andhra Pradesh and Shri Mohd. Yunus Saleem of Bihar were inducted into the negotiation process. It seems both claimed that they had been working behind the scene and should not have been excluded from the parleys. However, how they went about the negotiations and what progress was achieved is not clear. The Bihar Governor's role also came in for much criticism. Reportedly, they held meetings with religious leaders of both sides, but this part of the exercise was not only unproductive, but proved a setback.

During the month of October 1990, meetings were held with Chief Ministers, important religious leaders, political parties and eminent persons, including educationists, historians and other opinion makers. These were of informal nature, and proper and systematic records of these meetings are not available. In the All Party meeting held on 17 October 1990, it was, inter alia, discussed that nothing should be done to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus as well as Muslims or to disturb the status-quo, that the Ram Janma Bhoomi dispute should be settled through negotiations failing which through the verdict of the court. In the meeting with eminent persons held on 22 October 90, the speakers expressed various views; the complete record of the various points raised by these people are not available, but they are reported to be reiteration of views expressed earlier in the NIC and other meetings.

In October 1990, the Government issued an Ordinance to provide for the acquisition of the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid area and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The acquisition Ordinance resulted in a sharp reaction from both Muslims and Hindus despite efforts by Shri Yunus Saleem, then Governor of Bihar. Consequently, the Ordinance was withdrawn on 23 October 1990 and status-quo was restored."

It is evident from the above that Shri V.P. Singh's Government conducted totally informal and unrecorded negotiations in the most secretive manner, and obviously through different channels - ranging from VHP, AIBMAC, BMMCC, Shankaracharya of Kanchi Shri Jayandra Saraswati, the Governors of Andhra and Bihar, Shri Subodh Kant Sahay and Shri Ali Mian. Even the list of persons who were involved is limited to the persons who met Shri Subodh Kant Sahay. Even in respect of their meetings "no official record is available on what transpired at these meetings". 

6.6. It is obvious that whom the Prime Minister Shri V.P. Singh met especially in October, 1990 and how the take-over Ordinance came to be issued, are not explainable. The entire negotiation by Shri V.P. Singh was conducted in utmost secrecy and outside the records, in an anonymous and informal manner. The role of certain others in the final negotiations has been detailed earlier in this chapter, based on the oral testimony of important participants.
 

The official summary of the record of the discussions of the Government under Shri Chandrashekhar from December 1990 to February 1991, shows straight-forward conduct

6.7. The negotiations conducted under Shri Chandrashekhar's initiative show a more open approach. The minority Government of Chandrashekhar did not employ any intermediaries, official or unofficial, and the meetings were open. Everyone was a participant, everyone was present at the discussions and a complete record of the discussions is available. The summary made by the core group in respect of the dialogue from December 1990 to February 1991 is as under:

The second phase of the negotiations was undertaken following a fresh initiative by the Government of Shri, Chandrashekhar to find a solution to the RJB-BM dispute. During this phase, apart from Shri Subodh Kant Sahay, Shri Sharad Pawar (then Chief Minister of Maharashtra), Shri B.S. Shekawat (Chief Minister of Rajasthan) and Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav (then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh) also participated in the meetings. The list of persons from both sides who were involved in the meetings is at Annex-III. Apparently, the following meetings were held:

i. Meetings between the VHP and the AIBMAC at Maharashtra Sadan on 1 December 1990. Though inconclusive, the meeting decided to continue the dialogue. The minutes of the meeting are at Annex-IV.

ii. On 4 December 1990, the two sides met again in the Maharashtra Sadan and agreed to exchange documents on 22 December 1990 in support of their respective claim. Minutes of the meeting are at Annex-V.

iii. After the exchange of documents, the third meeting was held on 10 January 1991 where the documents were discussed. The minutes of the meeting are at Annex-VI. It was agreed that the documents submitted by the VHP and the AIBMAC may be divided into four groups as follows:

a. Historical;
b. Archaeological;
c. Revenue; and
d. Legal

It was also resolved that these documents should be examined by experts on the subject whose names would be submitted by both parties by 17 January 1991 and the meeting of the experts would start work from 24 January 1991.

iv. The nominated experts met on 24th January 1991. There was disagreement on many points; however, it was resolved to request Government to authenticate the documents produced by both sides. A report on this meeting is at Annex-VII. Thereafter, the fourth meeting was held on 6 February 1991 and a resolution was adopted, copy of which is at Annex-VIII. It was resolved that the Government would compare the documents, as presented by both the parties, with the originals and attest their genuineness. It was further resolved that both the parties would submit their view-points and an analysis by the experts of the views of the opposite party. However, it appears that neither of the parties submitted its view-points and expert analysis to the Government in writing. 

At a much later date, i.e., 13 May 1991, a group of four historians submitted a report to the Government. These four historians were the ones who had participated in the earlier negotiations as nominees of the BMAC. The gist of the conclusions arrived at by these historians is at Annex-IX.

For the authentication of the archaeological and historical documents, letters had been written to the National Archives of India, Archaeological Survey of India and the Indian Council of Historical Research. The National Archives and the Archaeological Survey of India returned the documents after due authentication. The Indian Council of Historical Research authenticated the documents pertaining to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but have so far not authenticated the documents relating to the BMAC. As regards the revenue and legal documents, the process to authenticate these could not be completed since there wars a sudden change in the political situation consequent on the announcement for elections to the Lok Sabha."

The dialogue had failed as the AIBMAC virtually absented itself-and subsequently, after the Chandrashekhar Government collapsed, no effort was made to revive the talks.
 

The shifting stand of the Masjid groups nailed by demolition

6.8. While Syed Shahabuddin had said originally that if it was proved that a temple existed, and was demolished to build the mosque the Muslims themselves would bring down the structure, later he began to set the standards of proof for complying with his commitment. Thus, though the stand was reasonable, the demand for proof was totally unreasonable, even impossible.

* First, he demanded "any documentary proof' of the demolition of the temple to erect the mosque.

* Second, when unimpeachable records of the British Government were tendered to prove the Hindu case, he said that only "pre-British evidence would be acceptable". 

* Third, when the writings of Muslim historians and scholars (which were actually being secreted and suppressed) were unearthed, and produced to prove that what the British had said was true, he said that these scholars were also following only the British version, and that their views were, therefore, not acceptable. 

* Fourth, when pre-British evidence was produced to substantiate the Hindu claim, he said that even that would not suffice, and demanded that "contemporaneous and pre-1528 evidence alone would be accepted".

6.9. Now, the demolition, which alone could produce what Shri Shahabuddin stipulated has brought out not just contemporaneous, not just pre- 1528 evidence, but evidence anterior to Babur, establishing that a Temple - and a Vaishnavite one - existed. When this was brought to his notice, Syed Shahabuddin promptly disowned his previous commitment to bring down the mosque if proof of the preexisting temple was given, and declared that such commitment was no more valid in view of the demolition!

6.10. Thus, what appeared to be a reasonable stand, was based on conditions which became unreasonable, because each time the VHP tried to fulfil the standards of proof set by Syed Shahabuddin, he set fresh standards of proof. Now it is clear that Syed Shahabuddin took that stand only to make it impossible to provide the proof he set.
 

Syed Shahabuddin never intended that the matter should be resolved peacefully, and shot down the only possible solution offered by the Shia leader 

7.1. All the demands - and increasingly stringent and impossible demands - for proof had only one aim: to thwart the reasonable demand of the Hindus to the site where they believed Sri Rama was born. When the Sants and the VHP proposed as early as 1986-87, that the Hindus would reverentially shift and relocate the Babri structure, as the site was important to the Hindus and the structure was to the Muslims, Syed Shahabuddin stated that not merely the structure, but also the site was sacred to the Muslims. But this was a patent lie. The site was, and is not important to the Muslims. In fact, not even a structure is sacred to the Muslims. When Shri Anjum Qader, the All India Shia Conference leader, proposed some time in 1987 that the Muslims should accept the solution of shifting of the Babri structure, Syed Shahabuddin wrote back to him on 4.7.1987 stating as follows:

Dear Mr. Anjum Qader,
Your letter of 1st June 1987.

Even If shifting is permissible under some school of Fiqh, there is no reason at all to opt for shift. In fact, one shift would open a Pandora's box. Please do not pursue this line.....

.............
.............
.............


I remain absolutely and totally opposed to the mischievous idea of shift proposed by the RSS, which you appear inclined to accept. Please reconsider.

Yours sincerely, 
Syed Shahabuddin.

7.2. Thus, the most reasonable proposal of the VHP, which was acceptable to the Shia community to whom actually the Babri structure belonged, was shot down by Syed Shahabuddin, by invoking the frightful possibility of a Pandora's box being opened up. But what appeared to have really opened up the Pandora's box was not the proposal of shifting, but the demand for proof. The proof given by the VHP in the case of Ramajanmabhoomi was complete for an independent body, but was not conclusive on the standards set by the Masjid groups, till demolition intervened and produced the irrebuttable and conclusive proof. But, as Shri Shahabuddin knows, and as even the so-called independent but Marxist, historians sponsored by the Babri groups cannot deny, the irrefutable proof that Hindu temples were desecrated and demolished to raise the mosques at Mathura and Varanasi does exist. This calls for no debate or dialogue. If tendering proof is the proper way to justify the claim to the sites on which the mosques stand, then, Varanasi and Mathura should have have been restored to the Hindus long back and even now, purely on evidence, they cannot be prevented from laying claim to them. But being tolerant, the Hindus wanted the Ramajanmabhoomi first and in preference to Mathura and Varanasi, not because of considerations of evidence, but on considerations of the religious sensibilities of Muslims. In Mathura, at least once a year, the mosque is used for worship, that is, on the Id day. In Varanasi it is used for prayers on Fridays. Only in Ayodhya, the so-called mosque was a non-mosque, at least from 1934, and from 1949 it became virtually a temple. Even though they had more conclusive evidence on Mathura and Varanasi than on Ayodhya, the Hindus chose Ayodhya because there was no prayer in the structure, and the construction of the temple where the non-mosque was, could not offend the religious sensibilities of even those Muslims who own the Babri structure. The choice of Ayodhya shows the basic thrust of the Hindu mind not to offend the sensibilities of Muslims, even where it concerned their holiest places. The Babri groups were aware of why the Hindus chose Ayodhya first over Mathura and Varanasi, and yet they kept on insisting for evidence and proof. This alone has the potentiality to open the Pandora's box, and not the shifting of the Babri structure proposed by the VHP.


 
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