Faizabad 1992, the attacks on Muslims, the Media: Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya

Image Courtesy: Pablo Bartholomew
Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, Justice D. A. Desai, Justice D. S. Tewatia (Panel)

Further Excerpts from the Report:  The Ground Situation in Ayodhya Faizabad
Kar sevak mobilisation
The mobilisation of kar sevaks as an all India phenomenon is an innovation of the Sangh combine. Evidence suggests that a three dimensional strategy was followed. There was a trickle of kar sevaks into Ayodhya-Faizabad, coinciding with the arrival of central forces. There were possibly larger numbers from adjoining states in the rural areas, within easy reach of Ayodhya. The kar sevaks coming from distant places were the last to arrive. The Attorney General's submission to the Supreme Court, about the wrong affidavit by UP government in this regard, was based on information about the ground realities.
The buildup of numbers in Ayodhya-Faizabad alone was 27,000 before November29, 1992; 50,000 on December 1, 1992; 90,000 on December 2; and more than 150,000, including large numbers of women, by December 3. Even an organiser like Ramchandra Paramhans was surprised by this mobilisation and thought that controlling such numbers was not possible. The BJP itself reportedly asked the U.P. district units to stop more kar sevaks from coming to Ayodhya.
Evidence suggests that tension was going up along with this build up. The kar sevaks were highly disciplined, and always followed a leader at the head of the column, but their provocative slogans increased in stridency along with the increasing numbers. Their attack on Muslim graveyards started from December 1, 1992 and the terrorisation of Muslims continued unabated. A march led by Kalyan Singh marked by provocative slogans left the impression that the administration would totally collaborate with the kar sevaks.
The arrival of kar sevaks from outside Ayodhya started from November 24-25, 1992 but increased from November 27, 1992. Local people feel that policies of the Railways facilitated the much larger turnout thereafter. The kar sevaks were stationed alongside Muslim localities this time, a departure from previous occasions. It appears that the safety and convenience of kar sevaks was considered the primary duty of the State officials. It also appears that the Union government knew almost, everything.
Position of Minorities
The minorities constitute roughly 8-10 percent of the population of Ayodhya. They number between 4000 to 5000. As kar sevaks started arriving in large numbers, the Hindu neighbours of Muslims expressed their inability to protect them this time. The slogans chanted by kar sevaks were very provocative and were openly permitted by the administration.
The minorities did not expect that the BJP government would be able to protect the mosque or prevent violation of court orders. They also apprehended attacks against them. In their testimony to the Commission they expressed a sense of betrayal by the Central government. Their main grievance was that the Prime Minister should not have issued assurances if the Union government meant to do nothing. These assurances had given them a false sense of security and they thus did not provide adequately for their own safety.
Position of the Administration
The local administration was seen to be working hand-in-glove with the sangh parivar' and its local leaders. The organisers of kar seva had established a level of autonomy where the local administration proved pathetically helpless. The DM/SSP did not seem to have made any efforts to change that situation.
Ayodhya was made out of bounds for any group except the BJP combine. The Janata Dal/Left Front march to Ayodhya was stopped outside and leaders arrested. A local peace march by IPF and others was similarly treated. A Sadbhavna rally organised by the Nehru Brigade on 3 December was opposed by the BJP combine and had to be rescued. Union Minister Arjun Singh was persuaded by the Congress(I) leadership not to visit Ayodhya. From 1 December, Karsevapuram became out of bounds even for journalists and a sense of hostility was visible against them from December 4, 1992. Thus, an effective offensive against the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution was mounted and enforced.
The administration up to the highest levels in Ayodhya – Faizabad had turned a blind eye to the aggression of the kar sevaks and their organisers. No protection was provided to places of worship and graves when attacks started from 1 December onwards. The victims were reportedly assured that everything would be all right. Legal action to regulate the developing situation was not taken. The police remained a mute spectator. Thus, the situation continued to deteriorate on a day to day basis. And, as admitted by one of the senior officials posted there then, "when the law and order situation became critical, it was too late to control the situation".
Coverage by the Media
The reporting by the media did not reflect the ground realities in all its aspects. The reaction of the people of Ayodhya, of all political and non-political shades, did not come out clearly. The attitude of the police and the administration in consistently disregarding minority complaints was not adequately reported. The aggressiveness of the kar sevaks was played down in contrast to their so-called discipline. This created a false sense of security among the readers outside Ayodhya-Faizabad.
There were also attacks on the civil liberties of those other than minorities. Local opposition to activities of the Sangh Parivar', in terms of planned or thwarted meetings and processions, were inadequately reported. The impression created was one of a grand mobilisation without any dissenting voice to the Sangh Parivar' activities. The divisions amongst the mahants was not reflected clearly. The media, in effect, helped in the buildup, as also in providing a positive impression of the same.
A retrospective reading of press reports from November 24 to December 6, 1992, also makes it quite clear that editors of newspapers took the statements of the central government and happenings in the courts far too seriously. They seem to have ignored the ground reality in Ayodhya contributing to a sense of complacency among the reading public. If the press reporters present in Ayodhya in the two weeks prior to 6 December 1992 had adequately and accurately reported what was happening and what was being said there, then the events of 6 December would not have come as a surprise.
The kar seva of December 6, 1992, thus, came to mean physical labour for demolishing the Babri Masjid. The construction of the temple was started, but not in the manner announced and not from the place it was terminated in July 1992. This was perhaps to forestall the possibility of the site remaining without any structure connected with Hindu worship, at the place where Ashok Singhal and L.K. Advani had stated that there was no Masjid!
The Aftermath (Chapter 4)
The assault on the Babri Masjid had several immediate consequences. After the kar sevaks stormed the mosque, Muslims, their properties and religious places, were systematically attacked from 1.00 p.m. onwards on 6 December. In mixed neighborhoods, including those away from major thoroughfares and in interior areas, only Muslim properties were attacked. This shows the planned and premeditated nature of these attacks.
Since attacks on graves and mazaars had begun on 1 December, and were followed by regular and belligerent anti-Muslim processions by kar sevaks, the State and district authorities had plenty of warning. As we have seen, police reports had warned about the likelihood of such incidents even earlier, from the last week of November 1992. Despite this, the State and district authorities not only took no preventive action, they scarcely intervened later to protect the lives and property of the citizens. In the overwhelming majority of cases, when Muslim houses and shrines were attacked in Ayodhya in the afternoon and evening of 6 December, the police and other forces did not intervene. In some instances, these forces themselves allegedly joined in the looting, or even attacked the victims (see Chapter 5 for details).
The situation did not improve after the imposition of President's rule at 9.10 P.M. on 6 December. Despite the large presence of the CPMF in Ayodhya-Faizabad, these forces were not deployed to protect the citizenry. Attacks against the minority community continued till the late hours of the 7 December. Only on the morning of 8 December did the new administration intervene to normalise the situation. By at least 14 people had been killed and another 14 injured, all Muslims. Another 3 were missing. The damage to property was extensive. According to the Muslim relief organisations, 267 houses, 23 mosques and 19 mazaars were destroyed or damaged. Government estimates are substantially lower. According to official figures only one mosque and two graves were substantially destroyed, and 542 Muslim residences were destroyed and looted, with losses estimated to be Rs. 1,91,39,400. In most instances, local officials just estimated the losses of one household per building, although in almost all cases more than one family resided in each structure. Thus, official figures are, according to the incomplete information available with the Commission, a gross underestimate. (See Annexure 2).
In other words, for about 36 hours President's Rule in Ayodhya- Faizabad was largely notional. On the ground, the kar sevaks and their leaders continued to rule, acting in flagrant violation of the law and the Constitution. In view of the numbers, organisation and belligerency of those involved, ordinary law-abiding citizens were able to do precious little to protect their Muslim friends and neighbours, even when they tried to. Victims and eyewitnesses have claimed that the concentrated violence during this interim period significantly exceeded anything they had seen in the past.
On the evening of 6 December, the clearing of the rubble of the demolished Masjid commenced without any intervention by the State authorities. Later at night the construction of a platform and canopy to house the Ram Lalla idols began. Though President's Rule had been imposed, there was no effort by the Union government and its agencies to intervene, to stop, or even limit, this activity. This building activity went on the next day, i.e., 7 December, without any intervention. By the time the central forces, in the form of the RAF intervened, the whole issue became significantly more complicated. The issue no longer remained that of the destruction of the Babri Masjid, but involved too, the action to be taken in regard to the makeshift shrine of Ram Lalla that had been constructed during the intervening period. Thus the problem was compounded, as the `Sangh Parivar' had probably planned. (See Chapter 5). 
The newly appointed Advisors to the Governor arrived in Lucknow before noon on 7 December. It is reported that before giving instructions to the CPMF to clear the kar sevaks from the disputed site, the advisers felt it necessary to refer the matter back to the Union government. It allegedly took 7 hours for them to receive a reply. At 8.00 P.M. that night, construction of the makeshift sanctum sanctorum of the Ram temple stopped. Aarti was then performed. By 10.00 P.M., according to local police reports, only about 500 kar sevaks were left at the site. By the time the RAF took charge of the site at about 4.00 A.M. on the morning of 8 December, the few hundred kar sevaks left at the site, including some women, only offered token resistance.
In the meanwhile, from 7 December onwards, the departure of tens of thousands of kar sevaks from Ayodhya was facilitated by the special provision of trains. No effort was made to identify, much less detain, those guilty of the unprecedented assault on the judicial process and the Constitution. A large number of kar sevaks carried along pieces of the debris of the Babri Masjid, the exhibition of which stoked communal tension throughout the country.
The communal violence that followed in many parts of the country thereafter, the consequent loss of hundreds of lives, with thousands injured and deprived of shelter and property, and a cumulative loss of thousands of crores of rupees, are all part of the aftermath, which ought to have been expected, of the demolition of the mosque. On 8 December, while communal violence and tension was unabated, the Prime Minister announced a judicial inquiry into the Ayodhya events, a ban on communal organisations and the government's decision to construct both a mosque and a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The same day, the non-BJP opposition parties supported by the Congress (I) called for a Bharat Bandh to protest against the demolition of the Babri Masjid. On 8 December, L.K. Advani, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharati were arrested.
On 9 December, the Prime Minister announced the Union government's decision to build a mosque at the earlier site. On the same day, the BJP called for a Bharat Bandh in protest against the arrests of their leaders. On 15 December, the BJP governments in Rajasthan, M.P. and H.P. were dismissed. On 17 December, Parliament condemned the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
A chapter in the history of this dispute has come to an end. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry which was expected to complete its work within three months, i.e. by 16 March 1993, has started its work. However, under its terms of reference, the Commission is not authorised to look into the conduct of officers and agencies of the Union Government in Ayodhya, as also lapses, if any, on the part of the Union Government in assessing the risk to public order and in taking appropriate measures. Its terms of reference also do not specifically provide for an inquiry into lapses, if any, on the part of the UP administration for the 36 hour period immediately after the imposition of President's Rule during which Ayodhya was virtually besieged by kar sevaks. The inquiry is thus limited to a coverage of only a part of the events covered in this Report.
The Ayodhya controversy appears to have entered yet another phase. The two trusts proposed by the Union Government to construct a Ram temple and a mosque remain to be established. Some Muslim leaders and organisations are demanding a mosque at the original site of the Babri Masjid. This demand also has the support of some secular groups and individuals. On the other hand the Sangh Parivar' has stressed its determination not to allow a mosque to be built in Ayodhya, within a large area to be specified by it. The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the subsequent construction of a makeshift temple has thus not resolved the problem, but has given it a new dimension.
(The report of the Citizens Tribunal was published in May 1994;  the Amici Curiae: K. G. Kannabiran, A. G. Noorani, Lotika Sarkar; the Secretariat Members: Anuradha Chenoy, Achin Vanaik, E. Deenadayalan, Gautam Navlakha, Raju Damle, Sumanto Bannerjee, Tapan Bose)

Further Excerpts from the Report:
The entire Report of the Citizens Tribunal Report is available at  https://sabrangindia.in/reports/1994-citizens-tribunal-ayodhya



Related Articles