India

THE LIBERHAN REPORT: WHAT SHOULD IT MEAN?


by Badri Raina

On  December 6,1992, hordes of  right-wing Hindutva extremists

(called karsevaks)  took the town of Ayodhya hostage with the full

and willing connivance of the then state government of Uttar Pradesh

and in physical presence of most of the  top leaders of the Sangh

Parivar (the RSS and its affiliates/fronts like the Vishwa Hindu

Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena, and the Bhartiya Janata

Party).

By evening of that fateful day, the 460 year old mosque built there

by one of Babar’s lieutenants, Mir Baqi, was razed to a heap of

rumble on the grounds that the mosque was built over a temple which

enclosed the birthplace  of the god, Ram.

To this day, there is no evidence of any kind that a temple of any

sort pre-existed at the site of the demolished mosque.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister of the day, late Narasimha Rao,

failed/refused to respond to insistent pleas both from some members

of his cabinet and many others from civil society across religious

communities to intervene to forestall that unprecedently brazen

assault on the Constitution and the rule of law.

The local government of Kalyan Singh was to cock a final snook at the

central government  and resign office  after the deed was done, and

in daylong glare of television coverage, preempting  the possibility

of being dismissed from office.

Almost instantly, riots broke out, and Muslims were killed with

impunity by Hindutva draftees who saw no obstacle to their

exertions.  In the city of Mumbai, about a thousand innocent Indians

lost their lives.  (The Justice Srikrishna Commission inquiring into

those Mumbai killings was to squarely hold the Shiv Sena and other

Hindutva bodies responsibe for those massacres, and recommend legal

action including against the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray.  To this

day, however, no action has followed, although the state of

Maharashtra has been since ruled by the Congress/Natiionalist

Congress Party combine with only an interregnum of Shiv Sena rule.)

Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan was appointed in January of 1993 to

enquire into the sequence of events that led to the demolition of the

Babri mosque, and to fix responsibility.

After seventeen long years, the Liberhan report is in.  Over a

thousand pages long, the Liberhan report concludes that “the RSS was

the author” of the carnage, and all “logistical arrangements” were

“coordinated between RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and the BJP,” calling the

latter “a front of the RSS”-the worst-kept secret of India’s modern

political history.

Characterising the event as the result of “tailor made” and

“meticulous” conspiracy rather than a spontaneous outrage, the

Liberhan report draws up a list of 68 names whom it holds culpable of

the same, names that include almost every scion of the Sangh

Parivar.  Significantly, it lists the erstwhile Prime Minister, Atal

Bihari Vajpayee, at number 7, holding him responsible of taking the

“country towards communal discord.” A day before the demolition,

Vajpayee had been recorded on video making a public speech in

Lucknow, the Capital of Uttar Pradesh, expressing the need for the

ground at Ayodhya to be “leveled”  inorder to facilitate the karseva

(collective religious activity) the next day.

Justice Liberhan exonerates the then Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao of

responsibility on the ground that he was duped by sworn affidavits

submitted by the chief minister, Kalyan Singh, to the Supreme Court

of India, undertaking to see that no harm would come to the mosque.

Liberhan also accuses the Sangh leaders of duplicity in having

“lulled” him and the central government into complacence through

their misleading pronouncements. While this is true enough, not many

are convinced  that this fact alone forestalled any action on behalf

of the Prime Minister.

There is substantial evidence that one or two of his own cabinet

ministers had warned him of the RSS plans for December 6 well in

advance.  One of those ministers, Makhan Lal Fotedar-a distinguished

Kashmiri Pandit secularist-has revealed how the then governor of

Uttar Pradesh was instructed by Rao not to recommend President’s rule

till asked by Rao to do so.  Fotedar claims he was told about this by

the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma-another

distinguished secularist Brahmin– whom he found in tears on the day.

Whereas Justice Liberhan has not recommended any specific action

against anyone, it has noted some correctives, chief among these the

need to have laws in place punishing the use of religion in political

activity.

II

Mysteriously, the Liberhan report was leaked to the media before it

was tabled in Parliament.  Both the Home Minister and Justice

Liberhan deny responsibility for the leak.

The BJP which has been in tatters recently as a result first of its

electoral reverses, then of the most unedifying internecine discord,

and finally of the open and overt take-over of its decision-making

prerogatives by the RSS, its puppet master since inception, has

sought to unite around two issues: a fake outrage at the naming of

Vajpayee (whom both the RSS and Advani have wanted out for long), and

at the leaking of the report.

It has also sought to make much of the report having been submitted

17 years after the event-a detail that in the BJP’s view renders it

only of academic interest, warranting no follow up.

That, even as it continues to demand action against the perpetrators

of the Sikh killings of 1984-eight years prior to the Babri

demolition-and even as it admires the Zionists no end for pursuing

Nazi war criminals some half century after the second world war.

Having led the assault on the mosque on the grounds of a four-century

old “dishonouring” of a  ”Hindu nation,”  it advises that there is

little point in revisiting the Babri demolition some 17 years after

the demolition! It utters not a word of remorse at the dishonouring

of Muslim sentiments.

Privately the BJP hopes that the submission of the Liberhan report

and the recorded culpability of the Sangh Parivar may help to portray

the Sangh, and with it the BJP, as martyrs and warriors in the cause

of “cultural nationalism,” and revive its political fortunes which

stand now at nadir.

III

There are, however, fatal reasons why the demolition of the Babri

mosque by a fascist, Hindutva putsch must never be relegated as just

one communal episode among many in post-independence India.

The controversy whether the Babri mosque site was indeed the

birthplace of the Hindu god, Ram, has for a hundred years or so

remained a matter of localized and legal contention, as  ”title”

suites are still being argued in courts to determine whether the

Muslim Wakf Board or some Hindu organization had rightful claim to

possession of the site.

Till as late as 1983, nobody outside Faizabad District in Uttar

Pradesh bothered a great deal about what was going on in those

suites.  And not many did so even in Faizabad and Ayodhya which,

paradoxically, had remained bastions of age-old inter-community

harmony.  Indeed, many of the plethora of temples in Ayodhya were

managed and run by Muslim devotees of Ram.

It was between 1983 and 1992 that the Sangh decided to convert the

Ayodhya issue into a cause celebre of “cultural nationalism,” leading

to the assault on December 6, 1992.  That as a ploy to enter

Parliament with some seats more than the humiliating two it had got

in the elections of 1984.

In projecting the issue as they did, the Sangh had a macro-historical

enterprise in mind, something that had little or nothing to do with

the Hindu god, or with the purity of faith.

One, the project was to assert the majoritarian premise that India,

notwithstanding its secular constitution, was first and foremost, a

Hindu nation-state.

So that as the pick-axes rained on the domes of the mosque to the

accompaniment of the grossest communal abuse, the fury of the doing

suggested that it was not a mosque that was being demolished but,

verily, the very body-incarnate of Islam.  The subliminal rage of the

erasers might have suggested that it was not a dome they were bashing

but the head of the Moghul, Babar.  Very much as in demolishing the

Berlin wall, the body of the wall was seen to represent not an entity

that separated two parts of a city but as an entity that  embodied

Communism.

Far from being just one vandalising episode at the hands of sectarian

hordes, the assault on the mosque was constructed and propagated as a

campaign to vanquish the secular Constitution of India and to shame

it once and for all as being at bottom tilted against Hindus, and

violative of racial principles of nationhood-an idea for which the

erstwhile RSS ideologue and President, Golwalker, was to be full of

praise for Hitler and the Nazis.

Never reconciled to the secular Republic, the RSS thought to make of

the campaign an occasion to reverse the principles of secular and

pluralist citizenship that India had chosen to give to herself after

Independence in 1947.

Two, the campaign was calculated to register the view that the will

of the majority community superceded  all the institutions of state,

an initial gambit towards turning India into a theocracy, or a Hindu

Rashtra in consonance with the well-laid out ideology of the Hindu

Mahasabha and the RSS (see Golwalker’s We, Our Nationhood Defined,

and Savarkar’s Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?).  A mirror image of the

hardline Islamic idea of nationhood and state!

It should surprise nobody that the Sangh has a standing list of

thousands of mosques which are slated to be demolished and replaced

by temples, some 36,000 at last count.  The question is never asked

as to how many temples stand at sites that used to be Buddhist or

Jain stupas.

And, not the least, to catapult the BJP as being the primary

“nationalist” political formation of India, and relegate the Congress

and the Leftists as essentially “appeasers” of  Babar’s progeny, the

Muslims, whose right to Indianness was to be formally damaged by the

construction that they continue to be non-indigenous and  disloyal

progeny of invaders.

IV

India may have come a long way since 1992; yet so long as the BJP

remains a mannequin to the RSS, so long as it fails or is unwilling

to transform itself into an autonomous “political” formation, so long

as, willy nilly, it harks back to “cultural nationalism” as its chief

raison d’ etre of political existence, remaining thereby unreconciled

to secular citizenship, minority rights, and equality of opportunity

and equality before the law, so long as, in one word, its chief point

of political reference remains its visceral hatred of Muslims, it

would be fatal to forget the lessons of the Babri demolition.

In that context, the indifferently evolved secular convictions of the

Congress party after Nehru pose no small obstacle to any forthright

firming up of the Constitutional regime.  It cannot be said that many

more than half a dozen top leaders of the Congress hold Nehruvian

secularism to be sancrosanct, especially when votes are in question.

And the Congress has only one way of disproving those reservations,

namely, to  grab Liberhan’s injunction about the separation of

religion and politics, and to put in place legislation that may

heretofore brook no heinous mixing of the two.

Legislation, it must be noted, that is then backed up with the legal

resolve never to pussyfoot any instance of communal appeal to the

polity, and to come down with the full majesty of the law and the

state on instances of communal violence instigated by political

agents, whoever they be, or however high or mighty.

Taking a cue from the Liberhan recommendations, the Election

Commission of India, a Constitutional Body beholden to no political

or governmental regime, may consider the time ripe for laying down

that any political use of religion would be ground for derecognition

of the party found culpable.

This must include due and prompt punishment to all those who, in

school, pathshala, madrasa, or wherever else  seek to frame curriculi

around communal perceptions of history and polity, calculated to

undermine the rights and prerogatives of secular citizenship or to

instill antagonism towards other religions, and a ruthless denial of

all attempts to grab public spaces for unauthorized communal/

religious use/propagation (something that the Supreme Court has

recently enjoined) as well.

Even if the current UPA dispensation forgave all the designated

culprits of the Babri crime (very few believe that the state has the

will to do otherwise)  but made the long-lasting  redressals

suggested by Liberhan and listed above, the generation of Indians to

come might inherit  a worthwhile democracy in regard at least to the

matter of a non-negotiable secular citizenship and a country free of

“internal dangers” far worse and debilitating than pockets of

insurgency floated around issues of livelihood.

And if none of that were to be done, the Liberhan exercise would

indeed have been a criminal waste at tax-payer’s expense.  And,

worse, an incentive to further depredations along the lines of the

Babri crime.

by Badri Raina

Those indicted culpably by the Liberhan panel must not hide behind procedure or leak the leak of the report.

At last,  after 17 years, 399 settings, 48 extensions, as cost of Rs 17 crores, embarrassing differences between the Commission’s Counsel and Chairperson, litigation in cpurt to delay it, the Liberhan Rrport on the destruction of Babri Masjid has arrived. Submitted on 30th June 2009, Home Minister P. Chidambaram held on to it until, it was leaked on 23rd November 2009 amidst accusations of conspiracy and finally tabled on 24th November.

On  December 6,1992, hordes of  right-wing Hindutva extremists (called karsevaks)  took the town of Ayodhya hostage with the full and willing connivance of the then state government of Uttar Pradesh and in physical presence of most of the  top leaders of the Sangh Parivar (the RSS and its affiliates/fronts like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena, and the Bhartiya JanataParty).

By evening of that fateful day, the 460 year old mosque built there by one of Babar’s lieutenants, Mir Baqi, was razed to a heap of rumble on the grounds that the mosque was built over a temple which enclosed the birthplace  of the god, Ram.

(more…)

17 YEARS SINCE 6 DECEMBER 1992


There will never be a closure to the black event that was the Babri

Masjid demolition.

It has taken 17 years for the Justice M S Liberhan Commission set up

to investigate the demolition of the Babri Masjid in  Ayodhya on 6

December 1992, to arrive at what has been known from the time the

mosque was brought down.  The Liberhan Commission has delivered a

searing indictment of the Sangh parivar as the primary culprit for

the demolition. It also names (in the commission’s words) the “pseudo-

moderate” leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the

secondary culprit and officials of the state machinery and

administration as tertiary participants in the horrendous act that

stripped the Indian state’s claim to be secular.

The Liberhan Commission’s report focuses on the ideology, world view

and organising power of the Sangh parivar, and the manner in which it

single-mindedly attempted to create a frenzy among the masses for the

demolition. It details how “the inner core of the Parivar” – the

leadership of the Rashtriya Swaya- msevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa

Hindu Parishad, the B ajrang Dal, the BJP and the Shiv Sena – bears

“primary responsibility” for the crime. It also points out how the

BJP leadership, comprising Atal Behari Vajpayee,  L K Advani and

Murli Manohar Joshi, was privy to the decisions of the Sangh parivar

on the demolition, but pro- tested innocence in order to project a

“moderate” image because it had been tasked to shed the “best

possible light” on the plan of the RSS. And last but not least the

commission indicts officials of the Kalyan Singh government in Uttar

Pradesh for deliberately collud- ing with the parivar in razing the

Babri Masjid.

The one-man commission has no doubt done a painstaking and thorough

examination of the events that led up to the demo- lition – the

intrigue, the subterfuge, the sabotage of law and  order and even the

inter-mixing of religion and politics. But did it have to take close

to two decades to present its findings? Justice Liberhan’s original

brief was to conclude its investigations in three months, but he took

40 extensions to finalise his report.  The commission certainly faced

many obstacles in its work. The culprits did everything possible to

delay and stretch out the pro- ceedings. But the commission has taken

an inexcusably long time since 16 December 1992, when Justice

Liberhan was appointed head of the judicial commission, to

investigate the events that led up to the destruction of the mosque

at Ayodhya.

Justice Liberhan points to the failure of many an institution of the

Indian state – including the media and bureaucracy along with the

polity – but he reserves his indictment for the Sangh parivar and is

silent on the Congress Party. Indeed, even as  the commission has

revealed the conspiracy underlying the demolition, what is intriguing

is the clean chit it has given to the then Narasimha Rao government

in New Delhi and the silence it has maintained about the role of

previous Congress governments in fuelling the  ”Ram Janmabhoomi”

claim. If there is a contemporary marker in the events leading to the

demolition it is surely the decision taken by the local adminis-

tration in January 1986 to remove the “judicial” locks that had been

placed on the mosque for nearly four decades. This too is common

knowledge, that it was done at the instance of the then Rajiv Gandhi

government, which was anxious to “win” Hindu support to compensate

for its decision to placate the Muslim clergy after the Shah Bano

judgment. The report is also silent about the poor mobilisation of

central paramilitary forces at the Ayodhya site even after the

demolition, where kar sevaks continued to run riot following the

dismissal of the Kalyan Singh government.

The aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition is well known.  As much

as this incident legitimised communal rhetoric in Indian politics,

leading of course to the BJP heading a government at the centre for

six years, it also hugely damaged public administration, the results

of which were immediately evident in the handling of the Bombay riots

of January 1993.

Despite indicting 68 individuals as being directly responsible for

the demolition and pointing fingers at the Sangh parivar and the BJP

leadership, the commission is quiet about pressing charges against

those individuals and organisations who have hitherto escaped

arraignment. Instead the report waxes eloquently on the reforms

needed in the functioning of the bureaucracy, on regulations for the

media and on upholding secularism.  The Action Taken Report also does

not suggest that the central government is thinking of initiating

proceedings against those identified as responsible for the

demolition. Therefore, all the effort taken to lay out the details of

the conspiracy and the failure of the state government of Uttar

Pradesh, and the recommendations and the responses listed in the

Action Taken Report end up as a futile exercise.

Justice Liberhan has described how the Sangh parivar corroded and

shamed the secular image of the Indian state and how officials sworn

to the Indian Constitution were brazenly complicit in this crime that

changed Indian politics and public administration for the worse. But

given how every single institution of the Indian state and polity has

pussy-footed around the Babri Masjid demolition and continues to do

so, there will never be any closure to this shameful event. The BJP

may have been electorally vanquished in two Lok Sabha elections but

the  virus it nurtured in the course of its campaign to destroy the

mosque at Ayodhya remains implanted in India’s social and political

fabric.

There will never be a closure to the black event that was the Babri Masjid demolition. It has taken 17 years for the Justice M S Liberhan Commission set up to investigate the demolition of the Babri Masjid in  Ayodhya on 6December 1992, to arrive at what has been known from the time the mosque was brought down.  The Liberhan Commission has delivered asearing indictment of the Sangh parivar as the primary culprit for the demolition. It also names (in the commission’s words) the “pseudo-moderate” leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the secondary culprit and officials of the state machinery and administration as tertiary participants in the horrendous act that stripped the Indian state’s claim to be secular. The Liberhan Commission’s report focuses on the ideology, world view and organising power of the Sangh parivar, and the manner in which it single-mindedly attempted to create a frenzy among the masses for the demolition. It details how “the inner core of the Parivar” – the leadership of the Rashtriya Swaya- msevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the B ajrang Dal, the BJP and the Shiv Sena – bears “primary responsibility” for the crime.

(more…)

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