Rathyatra retraced

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: April 1, 2001
Unless he, too, prefers to suffer from ‘memory failure’ before the Liberhan 
Commission as Uma Bharati did, Union home minister LK Advani would benefit from a quick survey of news reports that recorded his words and deed for posterity – during the bloody rath yatra in 1990, till the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992 and subsequently

After eight years of procrastination, the proceedings of the Justice MS Liberhan Commission investigating the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 have reached the conclusive stage. Evidence of the key accused in the entire episode, however, still requires to be led, before arguments from either side can begin. This includes the evidence of former BJP president, best remembered for his bloody rathyatra to Ayodhya in 1990, Lal Krishna Advani. Today he is India’s home minister. Others to depose are another former BJP president and presently Union HRD minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh. 
Through rather dubious claims in a writ petition filed before the Delhi High Court, Singh has sought to avoid appearing before Justice Liberhan altogether. It is to be hoped that the Delhi HC judge in question will call Singh’s bluff and compel him to appear in this significant investigation. 

Advani, too, has been avoiding appearance before the Commission, pleading “other pressing commitments” as an excuse for some time now. He is scheduled to appear before Justice Liberhan on April 10 and 11. Further cross-examination of former Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao and some other witnesses are also due. 
Only after these depositions and cross-examination will the arguments begin and the key issues under investigation be raised. The issue being probed relates to the crucial question of rule of law under the Indian Constitution. A place of worship and a historical site was destroyed in broad daylight with no resistance from the police and the paramilitary deployed. Equally important is the instigation to violence that resulted in systematic and violent attacks on the lives and properties of Muslims, before and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. 

For the first time in the half-a-century old history of the Indian republic, a mass movement was orchestrated and thereafter blatantly used to subvert the law and defy basic norms of equal and fair protection of all sections of the population by the law and order machinery. The purpose of the investigation, however delayed (as unfortunately all such public investigations have been in the past) and subverted, too, by key witnesses accused of criminal conspiracy yet holding positions of power today is to nail and punish those guilty.

As Advani’s date with the Liberhan Commission draws close, CC proposes to recall — through documents and press clippings — the events that led to the demolition. This will remind our readers of the issues raised by the movement that resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the widespread violence it brought in it’s wake. A reminder of the past words and deeds of the key leaders of the sangh parivar, something they would like us all to forget today. 

In this issue, CC looks back for answers to the questions: 

Ø What was Advani’s role in leading the rath yatra in 1990 and again in 1992? Through public speeches and silent mobilisation, in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992? In inciting crowds and thus triggering rounds of communal riots countrywide through his rath yatra?

Ø  What did large sections of the mass media report and record about the trail of blood that the rath yatra left behind in its wake?

Ø  How did Advani and the BJP react to the demolition soon after it took place?

Ø  What has Advani said on the issue, from the time the BJP adopted the Ramjanmabhoomi programme initiated by the VHP in 1986, until the demolition, and since, even as Union home minister? 

Ø  Which is Advani’s realspeak and which his doublespeak?

1993

A month after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, on January 25, 1993, Advani expressed “no regrets over the demolition” adding, “it was the hand of providence that willed the fall of the Babri Masjid”.

The Indian Express dated January 26, 1993 reported on his public meeting in Ahmedabad under the headline: ‘No regrets