Who are the guilty?

What can one say about the wisdom of a judge who damages his own case before his verdict concerning others! After 17 long years and eight crore rupees of public money Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan has delivered to the country an over 1,000 page  report on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition that is full of howlers. According to the Liberhan Commission report, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 31, 1948. Names of the same persons are spelt differently in different places; designations too are  mixed up on occasions. Looks like the learned judge could not be bothered with reading his own report before placing it before the nation.

Not surprisingly, those indicted, and rightly so, have latched on to the howlers to dismiss the entire report as lacking credibility. But though Justice Liberhan’s callousness is indefensible, his report remains an evidence-backed damnation of those who took the Indian Republic to the brink in December 1992. Not only was the Babri Mosque demolished in full public view on December 6, it also created the communal climate that made possible the pogrom against Mumbai’s Muslims in December 1992-January 1993 and the Muslims of Gujarat 10 years later.

Reading the report is like watching a horror film with an unfolding evil plot, step-by-step. Until 1983 when the VHP decided to jump on to the bandwagon, the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute remained a local issue that agitated some residents of Ayodhya… and Faizabad district at most. By 1989, however, a multitude of ordinary Hindus from across the country had been transformed into a frenzied mob that converged on Ayodhya again and again with a single object: construction of a Ram Mandir on the very spot where the Babri Masjid had stood for a few hundred years. Mission demolition on December 6, 1992 was the logical culmination and climax of a hate-driven agenda.

If the criminal intent of the various constituents of the sangh parivar and its ally the Shiv Sena was public knowledge the contribution of the report lies in establishing in great detail how a malevolent intent was translated into malicious action in such a short period as the institutions of State sworn to protect constitutional values and provisions – Union government, Parliament, the Supreme Court of India, the governor of Uttar Pradesh – stood as “helpless” spectators while corresponding institutions and individuals with similar obligations at the state level – chief minister Kalyan Singh, his cabinet, senior to top level civil servants and police officers – acted instead as the private army of a campaign brimming with contempt for the rule of law. If the Liberhan report provides us overwhelming evidence of the acts of commission of those guilty of the criminal act, far more damning is the evidence it marshals against those whose acts of omission made it possible.

It has been the plea of the BJP and the RSS ever since December 1992 that mosque demolition was never on their agenda. To puncture this claim, Justice Liberhan asks a simple question: why then were tens of thousands of kar sevaks mobilised to descend in Ayodhya repeatedly, indoctrinated with incendiary slogans till a very large number of individuals had turned into a hate-filled frenzied mob, straining at the leash? Justice Liberhan does not buy the innocence plea.

From the evidence gathered before the commission it was more than apparent well before December 6 that the plan for that day was anything but a “symbolic kar seva”. What’s more, the report points out that much of this information was already in the public domain. By December 2, if not earlier, it was so easy to anticipate the climax of this dance of the macabre on December 6. Why then did the Union government, the Allahabad High Court, the Congress-appointed governor of UP, the Supreme Court of India not intervene?

Justice Liberhan seems over-eager to give the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (and the Congress party?) a clean cheat. “In 1992, the central government had been blinded and handicapped by the inaction of its own agent (governor) in the state and by the unfathomable trust the Supreme Court placed in the paper declarations of the sangh parivar”. But he is not so sparing with other agents of State. Here are his parting words: “the intransigent stance of the High Court of Uttar Pradesh, the obdurate attitude of the governor (of UP), the inexplicable irresponsibility of the Supreme Court’s observer (sent to Ayodhya) and the short-sightedness of the Supreme Court itself are fascinating and complex stories, the depths of which I must not plumb… (But) historians, journalists and jurists may – and should – explore these dimensions and tell these untold stories for the benefit of the current and unborn generations”.

In short, the Liberhan Commission tells us that our constitutional edifice today stands on shaky pillars – legislature, executive, judiciary – of State. Unless the System addresses the rot within and secures its porous borders from pretentious infiltrators, there’s little hope of meeting the challenge from without.

We reproduce in this issue excerpts from the Liberhan Commission’s Report with a few obvious corrections and clarifications.




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