The bomb theory

Print edition : December 23, 2001

RASHTRIYA Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan's "explosive" theory that the Babri Masjid was demolished by the use of a bomb (thereby implying that it was not the handiwork of frenzied kar sevaks of the Hindutva combine) appeared to pro vide a new twist to the latest chapter of the Ayodhya controversy. However, it fell flat within a week of its enunciation. Sudarshan had no supporting evidence or supporters. Even his die-hard supporters like former Bajrang Dal chief and Lok Sabha member from Faizabad Vinay Katiyar rejected the theory.

The destruction of the Babri Masjid in progress on December 6, 1992.-

Why did the RSS chief come out with the surmise? As D.B. Rai, who was the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Ayodhya during the demolition and is one of the accused in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case, told Frontline that Sudar shan's statement could be seen only as a "concoction to save some senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders charge-sheeted by the CBI". According to Rai, the fact that the new story was put out eight years after the demolition showed that it was an afterthou ght. "It also points to its political content," he added.

Rai's comments must be seen as a voice from within the Sangh Parivar because Rai had resigned from Indian Police Service (IPS) after the demolition to join the BJP. He contested the Lok Sabha elections and won from Sultanpur. Rai is categorical that ther e was no bomb blast on December 6, 1992. Only firecrackers were burst by the kar sevaks after the demolition, he told Frontline.

Many other Sangh Parivar insiders agree with Rai's point of view. They say that the "senior BJP leader" whom Sudarshan wants to save is Home Minister L.K. Advani, though Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Sports Minister Uma Bhar ti are also involved in the case. It is no secret within the Sangh Parivar that among the top BJP leaders, Sudarshan is most favourably disposed towards Advani. The RSS chief is a strong critic of the style of functioning of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and his close associates.

In fact, developments within the Parivar since the Chinthan Baithak (introspection meet) of December 1998 have revealed Sudarshan's penchant to run down Vajpayee's leadership. As an alternative leader for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), S udarshan has Advani in mind. An indictment of Advani in the CBI case could block Sudarshan's plans.

Both Sudarshan and Advani apparently hold the view that Vajpayee has not been helpful in easing the burden of the case on the Home Minister. In this background, Sudarshan's statement has to be seen as a manifestation of the internal struggle within the S angh Parivar, particularly within its political arm, the BJP.

It was on December 8 that Sudarshan first made the claim that the Babri Masjid was destroyed by an explosion triggered from inside it. "Today I want to share a secret with you. The truth has started trickling in and the truth will come out fully very soo n," he told RSS workers at the meeting in Thiruvananthapuram. He added that the "kitchen cabinet" of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was aware of this explosion.

He repeated the story three days later at Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh, with the additional input that the blast took place under the "guidance" of Narasimha Rao's "kitchen cabinet". He claimed that his statement was based on a fax message sent to Narasimh a Rao by a former member of his Cabinet from Maharashtra. According to Sudarshan, members of the "kitchen cabinet" were present at Ayodhya on that day.

The RSS chief averred that he knew the members of the "kitchen cabinet" and that he would reveal their identity at an appropriate time. He said that the Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande was also aware of the "bomb story". Sudarshan's argument was that the expl osion had "become essential" since repeated attacks by kar sevaks had only resulted in the peeling of the plaster of the structure. But the theory collapsed within 48 hours. At Bilaspur he was asked if he possessed a copy of the fax. Sudarshan responded that it now appears to have been misplaced.

Subsequently, there were unwitting revelations by Sudarshan's predecessor Rajendra Singh alias Rajju Bhaiya in the December 17, 2000 issue of the RSS organ Panchjanya. Rajju Bhaiya said in an interview that "the dhancha (structure) was dest royed by kar sevaks who could not be controlled." "None of us wanted the structure to be demolished like this. Advaniji and Seshadriji tried repeatedly that the kar sevaks should not destroy the structure. They told the kar sevaks not to do it. Sudarshan ji tried hard, but the kar sevaks were adamant," he was quoted as saying.

Rajju Bhaiya also claimed that Narasimha Rao, Sharad Pawar and Rangarajan Kumaramangalam were fully aware of the situation in Ayodhya. The crowd there was determined to do kar seva. He himself spoke to Narasimha Rao and Sharad Pawar about it several time s, he said. He added that he had asked Narasimha Rao to petition the Supreme Court to direct the Allahabad High Court to take a decision on the disputed site before December 6. Narasimha Rao refused to intervene and, according to the former RSS chief, th ese delaying tactics incensed the kar sevaks.

Soon after, Nirmala Deshpande, who is co-chairperson of the Gandhi Samadhi at Rajghat, in a media interview, also came out with statements that demolished Sudarshan's case. "I never said a bomb explosion caused the destruction of the Babri mosque," she s aid, adding that she was not an expert who could detect the use of explosives.

Deshpande, whose interview seven years ago had created a controversy on whether explosives were used in the demolition, denied she had given a clean chit to the three Union Ministers. "They were asking kar sevaks to come down from the domes not to preven t the mosque from being demolished but to avoid their getting killed under the debris of the domes," she said.

Perhaps the unkindest cut came from Vinay Katiyar, an active participant in the Ayodhya agitation. He described Sudarshan's theory as an "insult to the kar sevaks who laid down their lives for the Ram temple in Ayodhya". The explosion, he said, was that of people's sentiments and not a chemical explosion.

RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan.-ANU PUSHKARNA

Nirmala Deshpande, however, seemed to exonerate the three Ministers. According to her, the demolition was completed by hired professionals and not by devoted kar sevaks. But Vinay Katiyar stressed that no expert was hired for the job. "The walls of the 6 00-year-old structure were already collapsing under the impact of the iron pipes - taken out from the barricades - used by the kar sevaks. It was then easy for the kar sevaks to pull down the sturdy domes with the help of ropes snatched from the security forces. This explains the leaning of the domes before they collapsed," he said.

Katiyar claimed that the two lakh kar sevaks ignored the appeals made by BJP and VHP leaders. "The fact that some of them even pulled at VHP general secretary Ashok Singhal's dhoti for attempting to prevent them from mounting the domes indicated their an guish and fury," he said. According to Vinay Katiyar, the kar sevaks were not content with the symbolic kar seva they were asked to offer and their pent-up anger resulted in the temple movement getting out of the leaders' hands.

The fallout of Sudarshan's statement was that the Justice M.S. Liberhan Commission, inquiring into the Babri Masjid demolition, asked him to appear before it on December 20.

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