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
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