Skip to main content
Sabrang
How the Babri Masjid was demolished
Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya
06 Nov 2019

First published in 2015



Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy,
Justice D. A. Desai,
Justice D. S. Tewatia   (Panel)
 
In the December of 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), then in the Opposition,  rode piggy-back on the more rabid Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)- Rashtriya Swayamsevak  Sangh (RSS) combine, and even participated, and celebrated the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Today, the Allahabad High Court judgement of September 2010 is pending in appeal before the Supreme Court and the BJP is in power at the Centre, with a brute majority.
 
Today, in 2015, 23 years later, despite the pendency of the sensitive case in the Supreme Court, the VHP-RSS combine are now openly making moves to build a temple at the site of the crime (bricks are being brought and collected there) , where the Mosque was demolished.  The BJP, their parliamentary wing, is in positions of Constitutional power.
 
Are the actions of the VHP-RSS in bringing bricks to build a temple at Ayodhya acts of unlawful provocation?
Is this not a clear contempt of the judicial process, a defiance of the rule of law?

 

The Conspiracy of the Sangh Combine: Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya
 
Image Courtesy: Pablo Bartholomew

Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, Justice D. A. Desai, Justice D. S. Tewatia (Panel)

Premeditated attempts to gather kar sevaks, well armed and well trained to destroy the 450 year old Babri Mosque was a calculated strategy of the BJP-RSS-VHP combine


Role of Sangh Combine
(Chapter Five)
 
Clearly Stated Intentions
 
The Sangh combine had clearly decided to demolish the mosque. Repeated statements to this effect were made. The White Paper of the Union Government itself summarises some of these explicit statements. On November 9, 1992, VHP President Vishnu Hari Dalmia declared, in Delhi, that the Ramjanambhoomi temple would be constructed in the same way it was demolished by Babar. "Kar sevaks", he, said "were pressurising the leadership that they should be called not to construct the Ramjanambhoomi temple but to demolish the masjid". The BJP President, Murli Manohar Joshi, speaking at Mathura on 1 December 1992, "appealed to the gathering to assemble at Ayodhya in large numbers for kar seva and to demolish the so called Babri Masjid". The BJP Vice President, Vijaya Raje Scindia said at Patna onNovember 23, 1992, that "the Babri Masjid will have to be demolished". On  December 1, 1992, stated at Kanpur that, L.K. Advani kar seva did not mean bhajans and kirtans, and said: "kar seva would be performed with bricks and shovels on the 2.77 acres of acquired land".
 
The U.P. Chief Minister Kalyan Singh repeatedly called for the handing over of the disputed site to the Hindus for the construction of the Ram Temple. On November 19, 1992, he reiterated this demand, and advocated the removal of the mosque. He offered to provide land free of cost for the construction of a mosque 10-15 kilometers away from the present site. On the same day, Vinay Katiyar, leader of the Bajrang Dal warned: "If the Prime Minister wants to convert a temple into a mosque we cannot guarantee its protection".
 
The Sangh combine leaders repeatedly criticised the role of the judiciary, and rejected its jurisdiction in the Ayodhya dispute. M.M. Joshi in meetings at Bulandshahar, Hathras and Meerut, on December 2, 1992, criticised the Supreme Court for appointing an observer, and stated (at Hathras) The nature of kar seva would be decided by the Sants and not by a Court of Law..." Similarly, Ashok Singhal, General Secretary of the VHP, speaking in Ayodhya on December 3, 1992, asserted that "whether it was legal or illegal, VHP would follow the decisions of the S ants. The Supreme Court may take any action it likes on the report of the observer". (Appendix-XIII, pp.90-92 of the Report).
 
It is significant to note that none of the senior-most functionaries such as the President or General Secretary of the organisations cared to provide any undertaking to the Courts, nor were they called upon to do so directly.
 
Misleading the Courts
 
Significantly, the assurances given by the `sangh parivar' leaders to the courts were quite different. Swami Chinmayanand, a senior VHP and BJP leader, on November 27, 1992, stated in a statement placed before the Supreme Court by the UP government, that the kar seva would be performed on December 6, without violating the Court order. In a letter to the UP Chief Minister, placed before the apex court, Vijaye Raje Scindia, also a trustee of the VHP, concurred with this statement. Yet, within days both resiled from their earlier positions. Participating in a discussion in the Lok Sabha on 3 December 1992, Swami Chinmayanand, after averring that "We will never defy the courts", added, "I am not ready to take any responsibility for what may happen in Ayodhya". Vijaye Raje Scindia, speaking at the disputed site on December 2, 1992, disclosed that the U.P. CM was ready to face the dismissal of the U.P. Government for the cause of construction of the Ramjanambhoomi temple, and appealed to kar sevaks to be prepared for the supreme sacrifice to this cause. (ibid., p.92)
 
It appears therefore that the Sangh combine's strategy in filing false affidavits in the Supreme Court was to buy time. This was explicitly announced at the meeting held at the Ram Katha Kunj on the afternoon of December 5. VHP\BJP leaders stated that the UP government had filed appeals in the courts as a "Chanakya tactic" so that their plans did not fail. This strategy was subsequently revealed in an article in the Organiser (December 13, 992), and by Govindacharya, BJP General Secretary in Frontline (January 15, 1993).
 
The ‘Sangh Parivar' obviously wanted to retain its government in UP so that it could continue its mobilisation for kar seva, while avoiding both central as well as judicial intervention. Simultaneously, its leaders had to make belligerent noises in order to retain their political legitimacy with the potential kar sevaks. Thus, they deliberately spoke in two voices. Therefore, their apparently ambiguous posture and misleading statements in public and before the Supreme Court were premeditated and politically motivated. The evidence clearly suggests that the demolition on December 6, 1992 was part of a carefully laid plan. (See below and Chapters 2, 3 and 6).
 
Cadre-based kar sevaks
 
The kar sevaks who gathered in Ayodhya from November end to 6th December were, according to all reports, almost exclusively from the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini and the Shiv Sena. Some of them had reportedly been trained in a VHP-sponsored training camp in Sarkhej village near Ahmedabad, under the overall supervision of Brig. Udaysingh Bhati (Retd.), in early October 1991. This was later confirmed by Rajesh Pilot, Minister of State for Home Affairs in Parliament. Specific information was not provided but there are indications that more such training centres were in operation for selected cadres mobilised for the kar seva by the `Sangh Parivar'.
 
The Sangh combine was prepared for intervention by the Centre. On November 19, 1992 Katiyar had declared that their deployment was based on the assumption that the Centre would dismiss the UP government before the resumption of kar seva on December 6, 1992. In anticipation of a police crackdown, the Bajrang pal had decided to fill all villages within a 20 kilometer radius of the disputed site with kar sevaks. On  November 24, the kar sevaks from outside the State started gathering in Ayodhya. At a meeting organized by the VHP on the same day at which where Ramchandra Paramhans, Mahant Avaidyanath and Katiyar were present, it was announced that the last battle for building the Ram temple would be on December 6, and that the kar seva could not be stopped this time. It was disclosed that the names of the leaders of the kar seva would be announced on December 5.

M.M. Joshi in meetings at Bulandshahar, Hathras and Meerut, on December 2, 1992, criticised the Supreme Court for appointing an observer, and stated (at Hathras) The the nature of kar seva would be decided by the Sants and not by a Court of Law...

 
The VHP conducted a house-to-house campaign in Ayodhya and Faizabad for the Ram temple, reiterating that the kar seva this time would not be stopped under any circumstances. According to local police reports, secret Sangh combine meetings were being held. On  November 26, the police reported that 2,000 to 5,000 trained kar sevaks were expected to participate in the 'main' kar seva, and the leaders were Ashok Singhal, S.C. Dixit, Paramhans, Katiyar and Mahant Gopaldas. It would seem, thus, that the large crowd as a whole may not have been privy to the detailed planning of the demolition, but there were groups who had been specifically assigned this task. That could explain why the task was accomplished with such precision and within a very limited time.
 
The same day, plans for a lalkar saptah' starting from November 29, were announced by the VHP\Bajrang Dal, which was to include 'prabhat pheris', demonstrations, street corner meetings, ringing of bells and blowing of conches at 9.00 p.m.
 
Particular cadres of kar sevaks, organised region-wise, stayed in separate camps in Ayodhya and Faizabad. They had regular drills, generally RSS-style. Their processions were organised, and often led by men in khaki shorts with whistles. Prior to the demolition, these cadres had been making their intentions clear by destroying graves and mazaars in Ayodhya since December 1, 1992. Virulent anti-Muslim slogans were raised during processions. Muslims were threatened, and Muslim houses were marked out. Kar sevaks from Andhra Pradesh staying in the Lodhi Chatri Mandir in Ayodhya started collecting tools from December 1, and openly declared that they would make bonfires of the Supreme Court judgements. ("Hum Supreme Court ke adesh ko bathi bana ke ghose denge".) Mohd. Hashim Ansari's house (he was the major litigant in cases for repossession of the Babri Masjid) in Ayodhya was attacked and damaged on December 2, despite a police guard. Because of the belligerent mood of the kar sevaks and the Sangh combine leadership, by December 3, there was widespread speculation in Ayodhya and Faizabad about the demolition of the Masjid. IPF leaders in a meeting in Ayodhya on November 20, 1992 had already warned about a preplanned demolition of the masjid. The local police also obtained this information and categorically warned the local authorities on December 1 that the kar sevaks were determined to start construction of the temple on December 6. In view of the attacks on Muslims the police warned that serious problems might occur and recommended special security measures. On  December 2, their information was more explicit. They expected 30,000 to 35,000 Shiv Sainiks to arrive and join other kar sevaks in destroying the Masjid on 6 December. Kar sevaks were also reported as obtaining details of all mazars and Muslim graves with a view to destroy them before December 6. They were also planning to destroy all mosques and Muslim homes. This information was obviously obtained from informants privy to meetings of the sangh combine and Shiv Sena where all this was planned.
 
In the attacks on Muslim graves, mazaars, mosques, houses and residents, the kar sevaks showed consistent organisation based on accurate information. Muslim houses even in mixed mohallas in interior areas away from the road were identified, attacked, looted and burnt on  and December 6 and 7.
 
Despite orders to the contrary, meant evidently for public consumption, many kar sevaks were armed with spears, knives, daggers, lathis, trishuls, and even countrymade firearms, some of which were procured after their arrival in Ayodhya. A large number also had tools, especially pickaxes, hammers, shovels, crowbars, iron rods, ropes, etc. Many of the tools were apparently stored near the gathering in Karsevapuram. In order, apparently to keep these arrangements as also other operational details secret, journalists were debarred from Karsevapuram from December 1. They were also barred from entering several camps where kar sevaks were staying, probably for similar reasons. The stored tools were later collected on December 5 and 6, and used for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
 
These kar sevaks persisted in openly declaring that they had come to demolish the masjid and build the temple. On December 6 morning, groups of them shouted slogans against the proposed symbolic kar seva, "Hum mittee nahin khiskayenge, hum mandir wahin banayenge". (We won't remove the dirt, but will build the temple at the same site).
 
Three new elements in the situation made the danger apparent:
 
(1)        Mazars had been systematically attacked for the first time.
 
(2)        Neighbours had warned Muslim families that they would not be protected. As a consequence, most women and children were sent away from Ayodhya by December 4, since no protection seemed forthcoming.
 
(3)        Kar sevaks were often quartered in sensitive areas, close to Muslim inhabited localities, more so in Faizabad, where Muslims are in sizeable numbers.
 
The kar sevaks were divided into various groups and assigned different tasks. While some only participated in the daily processions, others destroyed minority properties, or permitted looting by locals, or blocked the roads and entry points to the disputed site, while a core group nerformed the critical operations for the actual demolition. There were adequate steps taken to prevent the leakage of the plans and information about the demolition, materials collected and the attacks on the Muslims. Despite this, the local police had, as we have seen, sufficient advance information.
 
Rehearsal for Demolition?
 
There was an alleged rehearsal for the demolition at the Ram Katha Kunj on the afternoon of  December 5, photographs of which were taken and widely published in the press. An eyewitness, Praveen Jain, a photographer for the Pioneer, has stated: "On Saturday afternoon a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament forewarned me of the events to follow on Sunday. He smiled as he directed me to the spot where the kar sevaks were rehearsing how to bring down the 465-year old structure. The kar sevaks, with ropes and rods had roped a rock pile and were tugging at it from different directions. As events turned out later, this was the very manner in which the three domes of the mosque were brought down the next day. Near the mosque, a concrete dias had been erected. Hordes of kar sevaks were periodically racing towards the dias. This was the run-up to Sunday afternoon. Even as we took pictures, we were accosted by belligerent kar sevaks who jostled us and said we could not take photographs. We were pushed out of the site." (Pioneer, Lucknow, December 8, 1992).

In the attacks on Muslim graves, mazaars, mosques, houses and residents, the kar sevaks showed consistent organisation based on accurate information. Muslim houses even in mixed mohallas in interior areas away from the road were identified, attacked, looted and burnt on  December 6 and 7, 1992.

 
These kar sevaks may have been from the select group that the local police had reported as having been chosen to participate in the 'main' kar seva. Umesh C. Tiwari, the former ADM in Faizabad, denied this, and claimed that the photographs were taken post-demolition. But Parveen Jain's account has been corroborated by other eyewitnesses, including journalists, and photographs were published in the Pioneer and the Indian Express on 6 December. Moreover, by all accounts, no such activity near the site would have been possible after the demolition.
 
The Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal’s decision
 
The decision of the Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal to perform symbolic kar seva of cleaning, clearing and filling of land in the disputed area, but away from the mosque, was announced on the morning of December 5. The sadhus refused even at that stage to spell out the modalities. Nor were the specific details announced to the over one lakh kar sevaks, who were only asked to follow the instructions of the (unnamed) leaders selected by the VHP, with the injunction that whatever they ordered would be in the interests of the Ram temple. This was perhaps a reference to the 17 coordinators selected to look after arrangements in the 5 sectors in which the sangh combine had divided Ayodhya. Thus the actual plans were known to a very limited number of leaders.
 
At the daily press conference that day at 3.00 P.M., Swami Ramchandra Paramhans and Ashok Singhal made defiant statements. Singhal categorically said that they would not listen to the Supreme Court ruling, and that what happened on the next day would give a message for the establishment of Hindu Rashtra.
 
Speeches on December the Fifth
 
Inflammatory speeches were made at the mass meeting at Ram Katha Kunj on the afternoon of 5 December, at which major leaders of the RSS,VHP, Bajrang Dal, BJP, and Shiv Sena were present. Those present included, Ashok Singhal, Ramchandra Paramhans, Swami Chinmayanand, Swami Vasudevanand, Mahant Avaidyanath, Acharya Vamdev, Sadhvi Rithambara, Acharya Dharmendra and Vinay Katiyar, among others. Acharya Dharmendra, a key VHP leader and reportedly a major organiser of the events the next day, repeatedly stated that they would obey the commands of the Sants which they considered the true law, and break the law of the courts. He had, from December 3, onwards, been saying "chashmen ke number badal lo, dekh lo mandir vahin banega".(Change your spectacles, the [Ram] temple will be built at that very site [where the masjid was located]). Both Dharmendra and Swami Ramchandra Paramhans, said at the conclusion of the Gita path (recital from the Bhagvad Gita) that: "Kurukshetra ki ladai prarambh hogi, mandir banega, ladai jab tak chalegi, Hindu Rashtra banega". (The battle of Kurukshetra [a reference to the epic struggle between good and evil as told in the Mahabharata] will begin, the temple will be made, and the battle will continue until the establishment of Hindu Rashtra). Dharmendra clarified that the battle would begin the following morning, which was anniversary of the original battle according to tradition.
 
Other statements were made expressing the following sentiments: condemning the description of the structure as a mosque; stating that any law that hurt Hindu sentiments would be opposed, even though they would not like to violate Supreme Court directives; to the effect that the UP government had filed appeals in the courts as a Chanakya tactic to ensure that the kar sevaks plans did not fail; stressing that Hindus would not be free until all the masjids with signs of temples were taken back, and that until three temples (at the sites of mosques in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura) were taken back Ram Rajya could not be established in India; and reiterating that 70 crore Hindus loved the Ramjanambhoomi, they would construct a mandir there and offer flowers. These speeches were clearly intended to stir up the crowd in the area, which numbered in the tens of thousands. They were often asked to respond to slogans initiated from the dais. Despite the earlier announced decision of the Marg Darshak Mandal to have only symbolic kar seva, this was not relayed to the crowd. The kar sevaks present were not instructed about the nature of the symbolic kar seva, but were merely told to follow the orders of the sadhus, as the latter had the best interests of the Ram temple in mind. But, since these very same sadhus were making such fiery and provocative speeches, mass hysteria was created for the demolition of the Masjid. And on the night of 5 December, that day slogans suggesting explicitly the demolition of the mosque structure were heard in Ayodhya.
 
Attacks on Journalists
 
From around December 3, 1992  journalists were being threatened. Those photographing the demolition rehearsal on December 5, were threatened and made to leave. At 5.15 P.M. Ashok Singhal speaking at the mass meeting at Ram Katha Kunj wrongly accused the BBC of misreporting, in the previous day's broadcast that "a lathicharge had broken out". This enraged the kar sevaks, thirty of whom later attacked a German TV crew, injuring them and damaging their equipment.
 
On the morning of December 6, media persons, all of whom had been given badges by the VHP, were systematically, though perhaps selectively, attacked and their equipment destroyed. The photographers who were video recording for the VHP were not attacked. The attacks were therefore not indiscriminate, and were apparently directed at destroying evidence. About a hundred media persons, in a statement in Ayodhya the next day, blamed the RSS-VHP-BJP for these incidents, holding Ashok Singhal squarely responsible for his anti- media speeches, and regretted that H.V. Seshadri and L.K. Advani had not tried to stop the attackers. Vijaya Raje Scindia when stopped outside her hotel in Ayodhya by protesting mediapersons, allegedly retorted: "You deserve it". She later denied the statement.
 
All evidence therefore suggests that this attack on the press was preplanned and coordinated. The effort was apparently to ensure that there was no evidence of the specific role of sangh combine leaders and cadres. Foreign media persons were perhaps singled out to ensure that no detailed coverage was available in the international media. For their part, the kar sevaks would have been interested in destroying such evidence, apart from those also interested in looting equipment and valuables from the journalists.
 
Crucial Meetings of the Sangh Combine
 
Late on the evening of December 5, there was a meeting at Digambar Akhara in Ayodhya, where informants claim, H.V. Seshadri, Vinay Katiyar and Ashok Singhal, among others, were present. L.K. Advani arrived at night, preponing his arrival from 1.00 P.M. on  December 6, and joined this meeting. Another meeting was held in Katiyar's residence from about 8.00 A.M. on December 6, where it is reported that Advani, Singhal, K.S. Sudarshan (RSS Joint Secretary), Seshadri and Moreshwar Save (Shiv Sena leader) were present. Pramod Mahajan, BJP MP, joined them around 10.00 a.m.
 
These two meetings appear crucial. What was to transpire later was apparently decided upon and given the final shape in these meetings. As these discussions were highly secret for obvious reasons, the Commission was able to obtain no details. According to eyewitness reports, Advani left the December 6, morning meeting grim-faced. The fact that he preponed his arrival in Ayodhya indicates the urgency and importance of the meetings.
 
Demolition of the Masjid
 
The Sangh combine had already created the atmosphere and the conditions for the demolition. Significantly, the first attempts to break past the cordon of RSS volunteers and the police occurred between 10-10.30 a.m. on December 6, when Advani and Joshi arrived on the scene. No serious effort was made by any of the major leaders to stop the demolition.
 
The systematic way in which the Babri Masjid was demolished points to prior planning and training. The old mosque's structure was not weak. Because of damages caused to it when it was attacked in 1934, the central dome and parts of the walls had been repaired at that time using cement, etc. Though the claim that there was an explosion has not received any confirmation, all eyewitness reports indicate a purposive destruction. Only about 2,000 of the kar sevaks participated in the actual demolition. A few hundreds were the main workers. The initial successful assault was by kar sevaks who had distinctive yellow headbands.

According to local police reports, and all available video records, kar sevaks attacked the Babri Masjid simultaneously from more than one direction and in more than one group. The entire operation was therefore marked by a careful division of labour.

About a hundred media persons, in a statement in Ayodhya the next day, blamed the RSS-VHP-BJP for these incidents, holding Ashok Singhal squarely responsible for his anti- media speeches, and regretted that H.V. Seshadri and L.K. Advani had not tried to stop the attackers. Vijaya Raje Scindia when stopped outside her hotel in Ayodhya by protesting mediapersons, allegedly retorted: "You deserve it". She later denied the statement.

The Babri Masjid was not the only shrine destroyed. The Ram Chabootra where Hindus had worshipped for centuries, as well as the Sita Rasoi (more recently also called Kaushalya Rasoi) were also destroyed. The destruction of the disputed structure was therefore not the only instance of demolition of a shrine at the site by the sangh combine.
 
The manner in which injured kar sevaks were taken away, and ambulances provided, with access to the hospital despite roadblocks, again point to preplanning. The way in which the routes that the central forces would have to take to get to the site, were blocked, with rubble, burning tyres and other barricades, shows that it could not have been spontaneous. The human wall formed near Saket Degree College which stopped the RAF contingent on the afternoon of December 6, was also, informants have testified, premeditated. The Principal Of the college was an active BJP sympathiser who had earlier expelled anti-BJP student activists.
 
The call by Singhal and others, to kar sevaks to come down from the domes of the masjid, may have been a pro forma effort to indicate claim of willingness to honour Supreme Court orders. But it could also have been an attempt to avoid injuries to the latter when the domes collapsed. Singhal was seen signaling some kar sevaks to move towards the mosque. While the demolition was on, Advani reportedly warned the police not to "touch kar sevaks or use force". In the early afternoon, around 2.30 p.m., he called upon the kar sevaks to block all entry points to the complex so that central troops could not enter. S.C. Dixit, Vice President of the VHP, congratulated the police forces for their "restraint" while the demolition was going on. Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Rithambara shouted inflammatory slogans, instigating kar sevaks against Muslims.
 
The attitude of these senior leaders was clear encouragement to the kar sevaks to launch a pogrom against the Muslim community, which was already terrified by what some of its members had seen of the demolition, and many had heard over the public address systems. Even if, for the sake of argument, allegations the widespread about specific communal slogans and speeches by prominent leaders are exaggerated and untrue, the consistent support by sangh combine leaders to the depredations of the kar sevaks which had been going on since at least December 1, was tantamount to encouraging their actions.
 
If that is indeed the case, and this would require further investigation, all these leaders are guilty not only of instigating communal passions, but also of aiding and abetting acts of murder, attempt to murder, assault, rioting, looting and arson.
 
Post-Demolition Events
 
The demolition of the Masjid, the Ram Chabootra and Sita Rasoi was followed by the systematic removal of rubble and the construction of a platform for the installation of the Ram Lalla idols. The manner in which the Ram Lalla idol was removed by the pujari before the destruction of the Masjid, and brought back later in the night also indicates careful planning. The fact that leaders like Singhal, Katiyar, Dharmendra and Vamdev supervised the construction of the platform, the erection of the canopy and the installation of the idol, late on the night of December 6, further highlights their complicity.
 
Statements of regret that followed appear to be for the record. The joint statement on  December 6, by H.V. Seshadri, Advani and Joshi, while terming the demolition "unfortunate," blamed the government, the courts and secular parties for the delays causing the outburst of "popular feeling" which led" to the demolition. It also called upon the Union government to accept the "nationalistic feeling" in Ayodhya. Singhal, in his statement on the same day, expressed no regrets. He denied that the demolition was "preplanned" but went on to claim that, "Hindu sentiments cannot be subjugated for long. This has been proved today". He also announced that kar seva would continue for the next 13 days in the first phase, and then resume and go on till the construction of the temple was complete. The manner in which the entire programme was carried out, from the initial mobilisation of kar sevaks, to the installation of the Ram Lalla in the purported sanctum sanctorum, shows meticulous planning. This level of preparation could not have been achieved in a few days or a couple of weeks. Thus, pinning the blame, for the demolition, on the delay caused by the Allahabad High Court judgement, appears to be a strategem. The die must have been cast before that.
 
The denial by the Sangh combine prior knowledge about, or participation in, the demolition is also not sustainable. And if Advani, Seshadri, Dalmia and others considered the demolition unfortunate, why didn't they make much more vigorous efforts to stop it? Why did the leadership, including Advani himself, advise kar sevaks to block the troops? And why did they direct the construction of a makeshift Ram Lalla shrine? Apart from the demolition itself, these latter acts were also against the law, and the Constitution, as well as the assurances solemnly and repeatedly given to the legislature, courts and the National Integration Council.
 
The BJP State government kept its members away from Ayodhya. In effect then, the local law and order administration was left to take its lead from the party and its associated organisations. From the evidence that has been assembled, it is crystal clear that the sangh parivar' was in full command of a highly organised cadre, a body of kar sevaks whose religious fervour was systematically aroused, a core planning group of RSS/VHP and Bajrang Dal and high level functionaries present in Ayodhya. The leadership of the Sangh Parivar' was most likely party to the events in Ayodhya from November 24 to December 8, 1992 or simply acquiesced into it out of fear for losing its support. The former seems more probable from the conduct pattern of the administration in dealing with the unfolding situation, inspite of all the local intelligence at its command. The Sangh Parivar' and its top leaders, more so those present in Ayodhya, were responsible for planning violation of law, defiance of the orders of the courts concerned, and terrorising of the minorities in Ayodhya.
 
(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

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
Unleashing lawlessness: Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya

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

The political programme and deliberate escalation of the dispute while breaking the law and defying Court directives received momentum when the Babri masjid was unlocked on February 1,1986. In November 1985 the VHP had demanded the restoration of the "Ramjanmabhoomi” and threatened a national agitation if their demands were not met.

 
Further Excerpts from the Report:
The entire Report of the Citizens Tribunal Report is available at  https://sabrangindia.in/reports/1994-citizens-tribunal-ayodhya
 
The Build Up to the Demolition
 
Escalation
 
The second major change took place when the Babri Masjid was unlocked on February 1, 1986, a full 36 years after it had remained locked. At this time also the Congress party was in power both in UP and at the Centre. Senior functionaries of the government interviewed by the Commission have suggested that the government was instrumental in facilitating the unlocking of the Masjid. Two days after the unlocking of the Masjid some Muslim leaders from outside Ayodhya formed the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and Maulana Muzaffar Hussain Kichhochhavi became its president A competitive militancy of words and action pushed the dispute at almost the top of the communal mobilisation agenda. The VHP launched a temple construction campaign to expand its mass appeal. The mahants of Ayodhya remained divided on the issue and remain so till now. The residents of Ayodhya were not a keen party in it till then. The issue was assuming the form of a movement and the Babri Masjid-Ram temple dispute was introduced on the national agenda both for Hindus and Muslims.
 
Following the unlocking of the Masjid and the establishment of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, the frequency and intensity of protests by a section of the Muslim community increased, particularly in U.P. In a particularly unfortunate incident, 16 Muslims were killed in police firing in Barabanki during a court-arrest programme in April 1986. The protests continued and the dispute escalated and moved to Delhi. Then the Babri Masjid Coordination Committee (BMCC) was formed, with Syed Shahbuddin as convener, in December 1986.
 
In early 1987, protests were held in Ayodhya, and a rally organised by some Muslim leaders in Delhi protested the unlocking of the Babri Masjid, and demanded their right to pray there. At the same time the VHP organised rath yatras and expanded their campaign over large parts of the country. This resulted in communal violence in many locations. The VHP organised a virat Hindu sammelan in Ayodhya to demand restoration of the Ramjanambhoomi in April 1987. The atmosphere was successfully communalised in Ayodhya and the issue of Babri Masjid Ramjanambhoomi taken beyond the confines of U.P. and made more complex. In the midst of this, the legal issues were complicated further when the U.P. government filed an application in December 1987, to have all the cases connected with the Babri Masjid transferred from the District Court in Faizabad to the Lucknow bench of the High Court.
 
The tempo of communal mobilisation was then accelerated. The sense of denial among the Muslims was also aggravated by the postures of some of their self-appointed leaders. The `Sangh Parivar' also launched a Shila Pujan programme all over the country which resulted in communal violence in many parts of the country. In July 1989 the Lucknow bench of the High Court transferred all suits for trial by a three judge bench. In all these years no judgement was given on any of the disputes and the problem was allowed to expand and become more complex. In October 1989 hearings started in the Supreme Court on a suit filed by the Sunni Waqf Board.
 
Then in November 1989, the Central government allowed shilanyas of the Ram temple to be performed on the disputed site in Ayodhya. Rajiv Gandhi, as Prime Minister, also launched his election campaign from Faizabad and gave a speech promising to usher in Ram Rajya. In spite of all these religious appeals, the Congress party failed to come to power both at the Centre and in U.P. The Janata Dal formed a government on its own in U.P., and at the Centre with support of the BJP from outside. The support of the BJP was crucial for the survival of the Janata Dal government at the centre.
 
The Ramjanambhoomi issue moved centre stage in the political battle for power and was pushed up to a feverish pitch by L.K. Advani, after the policy for job reservations for backward classes was announced by V.P. Singh. L.K. Advani launched a rath yatra across the country, to end at Ayodhya where kar seva was to take place to build a Ram Mandir in place of Babri Masjid.
 
All efforts at coming to an understanding between the leaders of the Sangh Parivar' and Muslim leaders were unsuccessful, both sides being unyielding. Finally, L.K. Advani had to be arrested in Bihar. But the Sangh Parivar' was successful in collecting a large number of supporters in Ayodhya in spite of the best efforts of the U.P. administration to prevent them from doing so. The government had to use force to clear the Babri Masjid area and some kar sevaks were killed and injured. The `Sangh Parivar' appeared to have made gains from this event.
 
This resulted in the BJP withdrawing support from the Janata Dal government at the centre and the V.P. Singh government lost the vote of confidence in Parliament. Internal divisions between the Janata Dal and electoral game plans of the Congress party were partly responsible for this. The government of Mr. Chandrasekhar at the centre took a constructive initiative to initiate a dialogue between the principal organisations involved in Ayodhya dispute, on an all India basis, in order to arrive at negotiated solution. The Union Home Minister became the broker. However, elections were called in June 1991 for the Lok Sabha, and also the UP (Uttar Pradesh)Assembly. The BJP gained heavily and formed a government in 11 The Congress party assumed the reins of government at the centre.
 
The above summary of events concerning the Babri Masjid shows that the issue has been inextricably enmeshed with power politics for a long time. It is not surprising, then, that matters were getting increasingly complicated, instead of being resolved. Even issues regarding ownership of land and the facts regarding history of the area in general, and the mosque in particular, were not clarified in all this time. Most politicians refused to take a clear and logical stand on the issue. This made it easier for the Sangh Parivar' to exploit the problem and change an almost non-existent issue into one of "national" pride and importance.
 
When the Congress party came back to power at the Centre, along with a BJP government in Uttar Pradesh in 1991, the power equations changed. Two political factors stood out: the ruling party at the Centre did not have a numerical majority and the BJP government in UP had made the building of Ram temple in Ayodhya an electoral pledge. This made the issue of Babri Masjid and Ram temple critical in national politics. In the judgement of the Commission, the juxtaposition of a politically weak central government, an aggressive and determined Sangh Parivar' and a duplicitous BJP government in UP, ended up deciding the course of events leading to the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on
December 6, 1992.
 
This was still not too late to start an educational and political campaign around the country to convince the citizens about the dangers of communal politics. This was not done. No political or educational campaigns were launched to counter the aggressive BJP communal propaganda or to put non-disputable facts regarding the issue before the public. As a result the Sangh Parivar' was left free to spread half-truths and even blatant lies in an ideological vacuum. One glaring example of this kind of propaganda was the often repeated assertion by `Sangh Parivar' leaders that a large number of temples had been destroyed in Kashmir. This would have been easy to counter for the Central Government by providing facts and taking a special group of journalists to Kashmir to see for themselves. Even this was not done and the lie became "truth" by repetition.
 
The governments at Lucknow and Delhi and the parties backing them had their own compulsions to provide further credibility to the `Sangh Parivar' as well as AIBMAC or BMCC. The decision to start another edition of kar seva from December 6, 1992 was taken in this background. The VHP's commitment to negotiation was meaningless.
 
 
Decision on Kar Seva irreversible
 
The Central government continued its efforts to have the kar seva postponed but showed extreme reluctance to take any concrete action. The Prime Minister expressed the view, in a statement on November 15, 1992, at Allahabad, that he failed to understand the mystery (mayajal) behind the resumption of kar seva at the construction site in Ayodhya. However, Kalyan Singh had already urged the Prime Minister on 2 November to work on a war footing to resolve the dispute within the extended time. "All-out efforts should be made" stated the Chief Minister, "to persuade the Muslims to give up their claim over the disputed shrine to help facilitate construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya". The BJP Party President, M.M. Joshi, stated "The party would be prepared to pay any price for the construction (of Ram Mandir)". On November 5, L.K. Advani, leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, demanded in Calcutta that the Centre should allow immediate resumption of kar seva on 2.77 acres of land. VHP General Secretary Singhal was more strident. He demanded, at about the same time, that the Prime Minister should recognise the contradiction in his statements to "protect the mosque" and "construct the temple," and modify them accordingly.
 
The Muslim leaders involved were getting apprehensive. Gilani reasserted on November 1, 1992 that the idols inside the mosque should he removed and the opinion of the Supreme Court on the shrine should he binding on the parties. On November 2, Sultan Owaisi of the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee urged the Centre to protect the Babri Masjid in view of the kar seva already announced. The apprehension amongst the minorities all along was that assault on the structure was a certainty and its outcome predictable. They were pinning their hopes on the central government, in view of the ground situation in Ayodhya after he IIJP took over the administration in U.P.
 
By November 16, the VHP was stating that the assertions of the Prime Minister, that government would not allow kar seva, was an affront to the religious leaders. The BJP was still continuing with its proposal that kar seva on 2.77 acres of acquired land, in dispute in the local High Court, should be delinked from the safety of the structure and the Centre should facilitate the former. It was at this stage that the Union Home Minister initiated the proposal for adjudication under Article 138 (2) of the Constitution by the Supreme Court. Both the U.P. Government and the BJP secured a written offer, and then the BJP rejected it within an hour of its receipt. In any case L.K. Advani is reported to have rejected the proposal of one point reference to the Supreme Court and wanted it to be delinked from the planned kar seva. This written offer does not form part of the Union Government's White Paper. The VHP-Bajrang Dal-RSS did not, at any time, indicate that the kar seva plans were negotiable.
 
It was under these circumstances that a meeting of the National Integration Council was called for on November 23, 1992. Simultaneously, the Supreme Court asked the Union government to "spell out its stand on the proposed VHP kar seva", as also its response to its appointment as a receiver. The BJP president, M.M. Joshi criticised the involvement of the Supreme Court in the dispute over kar seva. The BJP, followed by the U.P. government decided to boycott the NIC meeting. The planned dialogue between AIBMAC-VHP was also made meaningless by 'the sangh parivar' calling for kar seva. The NIC was denied the opportunity to openly debate with the BJP. The BJP-RSS-VHP obviously had closed their options and were no longer interested in the process of a democratic dialogue.
 
The Prime Minister stated before the NIC on November 23, 1992: "The issues on which there are differences of opinion are the plan of construction, the safety of the existing structure, and the compliance of the court order on the subject." The NIC gave a free hand to the Prime Minister to deal with the Ayodhya crisis.
 
There was no question by now that the planned kar seva could be deferred or stopped through consensus. The Sangh Parivar was obviously in the hands of its field commander, Vinay Katiyar, who had asserted in an interview in April 1992, "Might is the only law I understand. Nothing else matters to me".
 
The Entire Report is available at
https://sabrangindia.in/reports/1994-citizens-tribunal-ayodhya
 
 (The report of the Citizens Tribunal was published in May 1994; the Amici Curiae were : K. G. Kannabiran, A. G. Noorani, Lotika Sarkar; the Secretariat Members were : Anuradha Chenoy, Achin Vanaik, E. Deenadayalan, Gautam Navlakha, Raju Damle, Sumanto Bannerjee, Tapan Bose)
 
Then and Now, a brazen violation of the Rule of Law

Image Courtesy: Pablo Bartholomew
 
We bring to you excerpts of a Citizens Tribunal report on the Demolition. The Tribunal sat soon after the Demolition and made public its report in 1994. It tells the gory and sinister tale of how the Court orders were consistently defied, of how the Supreme Court Orders were especially violated,  how the misgivings expressed by then then Attorney General of India --on the ground level situation in Ayodhya--  were brushed aside; and finally how a crime was committed, breaking Indian law and defying the Indian Constitution, in full public view on December 6, 1992.
 
The entire Report of the Citizens Tribunal Report is available at
https://sabrangindia.in/reports/1994-citizens-tribunal-ayodhya
 
Excerpts:
 
Key Observations in the Report (The following facts stand out):
 
■   Both Central and State Intelligence reports (IB) warned the Union and State administrations of the possibility of destruction of the Babri Masjid well in advance.
■   The BJP leaders' formal statements for the purposes of the Court and public speeches were at variance.
■   `Sangh parivar' leaders' speeches in Ayodhya exhorted the kar sevaks to make the "ultimate sacrifice" for constructing the Ram Mandir at the Babri Masjid site on  December 6 (1992).
■   It was widely known among the kar sevaks in Ayodhya, and reported by the U.P. police to the state administration, that the central forces in Ayodhya would not use firearms on December 6, 1992.
■   Kalyan Singh had announced that the U.P. police would not use force against the kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.
■   Local residents and the police knew that kar sevaks were collecting implements which could be used to destroy the Babri Masjid.
■   Some journalists and local residents are reported to have witnessed the rehearsals for destruction of the Babri Masjid.
■   The U.P. police warned their superiors in advance that the kar sevaks were planning to destroy all Masjids and Muslim homes in Ayodhya.
■   A very large number of kar sevaks were allowed to collect in Ayodhya and the Union government reportedly helped in this process by providing special trains.
■   Kar sevaks were considered special guests by the administration, and official machinery was used to make their life comfortable in Ayodhya.
■   Ample warning of the kar sevaks' mood was given more than five days in advance, when they started destroying and damaging mazars, mosques and Muslim homes.
 
How the BJP and Its Allies in the Parivar broke the Law
 
The Form of the Kar Seva
 
By late November (1992) the political authorities had started showing symptoms of failure and the Courts seemed to provide an escape route. There were pending contempt cases for violation of Court orders during the July 1992 kar seva. The Supreme Court, therefore, asked the UP government on November 24, 1992 to specify steps on the compliance of orders, namely, prohibiting "any construction" and "any permanent construction" on 2.77 acres of land. The Prime Minister is reported to have picked on this straw immediately on November 26, 1992, when he told the Congress parliamentary party, "No one can do kar seva now to build a temple on the proposed plot in Ayodhya since there is a stay order in force".[1] He reportedly termed the planned kar seva 'illegal' and declared the government's commitment to implement the Supreme Court orders and to uphold the Constitution. The UP government refused, in a discussion in the state legislature, to be pinned down regarding the form of the kar seva.
 
The U.P. Counsel in the Supreme Court, K.K. Venugopal, assured the court that the State government would not allow the ground situation in Ayodhya to build up to a situation which resulted in violation of court orders. However, to a suggestion by the Attorney General[2] that extensive preparations were going on for kar seva, the court announced: "Preparation is not an offence. Only on our fullest satisfaction before us that state government has failed in its duty will we pass any orders". The VHP-BJP leaders showed apparent reasonableness in stating that kar seva would not involve any violation of court orders. On  November 28, 1992, recitations from the Gita were started on the disputed site even before the court passed its final orders on kar seva. The Court asked the UP government to file an affidavit after consultation with the VHP and to provide further guarantees that construction materials and machinery would not be kept near the disputed site. The submission of the Attorney General on the ground realities cited in the affidavit on kar seva and the deteriorating situation was brushed aside. So, on November 29, 1992, the Supreme Court finally passed its order on the carrying out of 'symbolic kar seva' and provided for its own observer to monitor the situation in Ayodhya and report on the same. The separation of the Judiciary and Executive moved a stage further. A division, in the appreciation of the ground realities, between the local administration and the judicial observer was created.
 
The `sangh parivar' had succeeded in neutralising any benefit that the Union government could have claimed from the orders of the court. The VHP took the UP government assurances as a tactical move. The Bajrang Dal Chief was more emphatic: "Supreme Court ruling can apply to an individual but not to an entire society." He stated on November 29 itself that kar seva was not just bhajans but temple construction also. L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi were to take part in the planned kar seva. A BJP press release on the same day described the movement of building a temple at Ayodhya as "not the culmination but the commencement of national reassertion" and the proposed presence of these national leaders as "symbols of the party's commitment to national reassertion". In Ayodhya, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das stated that "a section of the Janambhoomi movement is so committed to the Hindu cause that if they decide to take matters into their own hands even the saints would be powerless to stop them". He also stated that a section of the Bajrang Dal could not be controlled. A half-way court order was, thus, foredoomed to fail in its objective. In any case, there were too many organisations involved and all of them were not party to the undertaking before the court directly or indirectly.
 
The confusion regarding the contents of the kar seva continued until December  6, 1992. Thus, the main task of mobilising the kar sevaks could be carried out without any problem. L.K. Advani is reported to have launched his march to Ayodhya from Varanasi with the announcement that kar seva would not be limited to `bhajans and kirtans'. By the time he reached Ayodhya, he was reported to have said firmly: "We will really construct the temple and not confine ourselves to symbolic kar seva of bhajans and kirtans." M.M. Joshi was more forthcoming. He asserted that the "Court can define and interpret the constitution and the laws but not the nature and the format of the kar seva", and that during the kar seva "everything, right from puja to construction can be done". The sadhus-sants on December 5, 1992 told the huge gathering of kar sevaks that kar seva would begin at 12.15 pm on the next day, there would be no construction on the 2.77 acres of disputed land, and that they should follow the instructions of the sadhus in regard to modalities of kar seva. The VHP General Secretary is reported to have stated, "The construction will be carried out but at its own pace and in conjunction with the advice of experts, not on the court's instructions".
 
The kar sevaks were given a clear message that the Court order was not sacrosanct. There need not be any construction on 2.77 acres of disputed land but elsewhere. It was not necessary to have construction material and equipment at or near the site; transportation from places of storage nearby would not be a problem. The court observer's report was confined to the area of dispute and activities there, and therefore monitoring would not interfere with any of the arrangements planned. In any case, the Court had already ruled that preparation alone was no offence.
 
The Fate of the Structure
 
The failure to restore status-quo-ante in the Babri Masjid structure had made any development possible. The Puri Sankaracharya was not the only one who demanded that it should be demolished. This was implicit in the repeated efforts of Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh, to persuade Muslims to agree to relocate the mosque outside the boundaries defined by the VHP. By November 20, Vinay Katiyar announced that there was, "no guarantee for the safety of the existing structure". While RSS Joint Secretary, Rajendra Singh, promised that the masjid would not be damaged, General Secretary H.V. Seshadri announced that "pre-construction work" involving levelling of land, cleaning and watering outside the disputed area would be carried out. L.K. Advani is reported to have said in Varanasi: "We do not want to destroy any Masjid and make a Mandir. There was never a Masjid at Ramjanambhoomi Site". Simultaneously, M. M Joshi was noting unambiguously that the proposed construction of Ram temple was impossible without demolishing the Babri Masjid.
 
The implications of such stances on the local situation in Ayodhya were to create a real risk to the old structure. The Home Ministry was is aware of this risk, as is abundantly clear from the guarded language of the letter to the Chief Minister of U.P. on December 5, 1992 which was also leaked to the press. He went to the extent of stating: "The possibility of some mischievous elements using explosives to damage the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid structure cannot be ruled out". The local police were apprehending construction at the site of the Babri Masjid from November 28, 1992 onwards. On December 2, it was noted that Shiv Sainiks along with others could be expected to destroy the disputed structure. On December 3, 1992 one Manas Maharathi Tyagi is reported to have told the kar sevaks that the disputed structure should be destroyed with a blow (jhatka). In the public meeting on December 5, resentment was expressed calling the place of rest of "Ram Lalla" a Masjid, with the assertion that this would be tolerated no longer. Slogans calling for demolition of the Masjid were heard in the night of December 5-6, 1992.
 
The fate of the Babri Masjid was sealed. Demolition was not off the agenda. Construction was on the agenda and it was to be on land covered by the Supreme Court judgement. Clearing, levelling, and watering had been planned. Engineering advice required had been arranged. Kar sevaks in large members were present not to do 'physical labour', but to immobilise the police and the administration, central as well as State. This was the scenario for the collapse of state authority on the eve of kar seva of December 6, 1992.
 
Central Intervention in Uttar Pradesh
 
Central government intervention would have had the potential of reducing the risks inherent in the developing situation at a number of stages. The sangh parivar' was aware of it and it took all steps to ensure that its government in UP remained in position. That was the insurance for total collaboration from the administration. That was the necessary condition for the larger mobilisation of kar sevaks.
 
The Centre could have intervened to give directives under Article 256 and 257 (1) of the Constitution for the misuse of the Land Acquisition Act in a way that heightened the communal divide, but this was not done. The Court orders were violated in July 1992, but there was no intervention as provided for under the Constitution when the State Government had failed to carry out its legal obligations. There was wholesale violation of laws, in demolishing religious structures, in terrorising mahants, in levelling land, but the administrative machinery remained collusive or, at the Union level, inactive.
 
The BJP and its allied organisations blew hot and cold to ensure that Central intervention was averted under all circumstances. As early as November 6, 1992 Chief Minister Kalyan Singh stated, "If the centre forcibly tries to confront my Government over the Mandir issue, it should be ready to face the consequences. I am not bothered about confrontation. I am ready to face it". On November 20, 1992,  Vinay Katiyar indicated that their plan was based on the assumption that the Centre would sack the U.P. government before the start of kar seva onDecember 6. By  November 22, when the BJP combine declared the boycott of the NIC, the VHP General Secretary claimed that the Centre was considering dismissal, and another functionary speculated that the UP government would be dismissed by 26 November. The Janata Dal and Left Front joined the issue on 23 November. "I see no other alternative but to dismiss the state government", said Jyoti Basu, "if it violates the Constitution and the court order". V.P. Singh added: "If necessary the Kalyan Singh government has to be dismissed". There was no response from the Union Government.
 
L.K. Advani threatened on  November 27, 1992 that his party would bring proceedings in both Houses of Parliament to a halt if the U.P. government was dismissed prior to the resumption of kar seva. The Attorney General had cited an IB report to the Supreme Court judges on November 27, to prove that the facts given by the U.P. government in their affidavit were incorrect. The Centre had, therefore, a duty to intervene as provided for in Article 355 of the Constitution. The Centre showed an extraordinary reluctance to intervene. The call for a "Challenge Day" (Lalkar Diwas) fromNovember 29, 1992 was another opportunity for intervention under Article 355. On December 4, the Home Minister was still stating in the Lok Sabha that the matter was at a delicate stage and he should be left to deal with it appropriately, stating "I do not know why such doubts are being raised. Government has no reason to disbelieve U.P. C.M who said he would protect the mosque."
 
The proceedings in the Supreme Court on November 26, when intervention by the Union Government was sought by some parties, brought the following observations from the Court: "What prevents the central government from taking such action as advised, taking into account the gravity of the situation. Why a Court Order?" Since the Union government failed to act on the basis of information at its command, L.K. Advani announced on December 3, that the BJP government would, under no circumstances, use force to prevent the kar seva from taking place. The BJP had succeeded in keeping its government in U.P. in position, to fully facilitate the implementation of the plans of the Sangh Parivar.
 
 (The report of the Citizens Tribunal was published in May 1994; the Amici Curiae were : K. G. Kannabiran, A. G. Noorani, Lotika Sarkar; the Secretariat Members were : Anuradha Chenoy, Achin Vanaik, E. Deenadayalan, Gautam Navlakha, Raju Damle, Sumanto Bannerjee, Tapan Bose)
 
[1] Narasimha Rao was the prime minister of the government controlled by the Congress party at the time
[2] Milon K. Banerji was Attorney General of India at the time

Related Articles

News in Brief

Monday

18

Nov

Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Saturday

30

Nov

Jana Natya Manch, New Delhi

Thursday

07

Nov

Thrissur, Kerala

Theme

babri

How the Babri Masjid was demolished

Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya
babri

Fact and Faith

Allahabad High Court Judgement in Babri Demolition Case, 2010
kashmir

How Green Is My Valley

The killing of innocent Hindus by Pakistan-trained mercenaries in J and K is one more bid to convert the Kashmiriyat issue into a Hindu-Muslim problem

Campaigns

Monday

18

Nov

Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Saturday

30

Nov

Jana Natya Manch, New Delhi

Thursday

07

Nov

12 am onwards

Vibgyor Film Collective

Thrissur, Kerala

Videos

Communalism

What is the Ram Temple REALLY about?

For the many who do not know what the original Ram Temple movement is and the many who may have forgotten the mayhem, eminent activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad presents a ready reckoner on what the Ram Temple movement really is about and why has it been so conveniently resurrected, twenty six years later in 2018.

Communalism

What is the Ram Temple REALLY about?

For the many who do not know what the original Ram Temple movement is and the many who may have forgotten the mayhem, eminent activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad presents a ready reckoner on what the Ram Temple movement really is about and why has it been so conveniently resurrected, twenty six years later in 2018.

Analysis

babri

How the Babri Masjid was demolished

Citizens Tribunal on Ayodhya
babri

Fact and Faith

Allahabad High Court Judgement in Babri Demolition Case, 2010
kashmir

How Green Is My Valley

The killing of innocent Hindus by Pakistan-trained mercenaries in J and K is one more bid to convert the Kashmiriyat issue into a Hindu-Muslim problem

Archives