Demolishing images

Published : Apr 23, 2010 00:00 IST

IPS officer Anju Gupta after deposing before the CBI special court in Rae Bareli.-NAND KUMAR/PTI

IPS officer Anju Gupta after deposing before the CBI special court in Rae Bareli.-NAND KUMAR/PTI

Senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Anju Guptas statement in the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Rae Bareli on March 26 nails the lie that Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani has been serving to the nation for many years that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, by kar sevaks was the saddest day of my life and that he had never wanted the mosque to fall. Anju Gupta, who was with Advani all through that day in her capacity as his personal security officer, was Superintendent of Police, Faizabad then and was barely months into her service when the incident happened.

She has now given a graphic account of how the former Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government provoked kar sevaks, how he kept telling them that a temple would be built at the spot where the mosque stood, and how he, along with other BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders, celebrated the demolition by distributing and partaking sweets and hugging each other. Although a dozen senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and IPS officers were present at the spot that day, Anju Gupta was the only officer to record her statement before the CBI in 1993. The CBI filed the case against Advani and other leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, S.C. Dixit and Sadhvi Rithambara on the basis of her statement.

Eight witnesses had been examined in the case, Anju Gupta was the ninth. It is understood that the statements of 40 more witnesses will be recorded. The first statement recorded was that of Inspector Hanuman Prasad, on December 5, 2007. An inspector posted with the local police station, he registered the first information report (FIR) on the demolition of the masjid. The second witness to record his statement was R.K. Swami, on December 13, 2007. Swami (now retired) was the deputy commandant of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) posted there at the time. The recording of his statement and cross-examination continued until April 8, 2008.

On July 8, 2008, the third witness in the case, Mohammad Aslam, recorded his statement before the court. The fourth witness was Avdesh Upadhyaya, a priest. The statement of the fifth witness, Sanjay Khare, was recorded on February 28, 2009, and his cross-examination continued until May 16, 2009. The sixth and seventh witnesses, Ram Bahadur Mishra and Jitendra Mishra, two sub-inspectors, recorded their statements on June 5, 2009, and August 27, 2009, respectively. The eighth witness, whose statement was recorded on November 23, 2009, was Chandra Kishore Mishra.

But Anju Guptas statement stands out as she is the only serving IPS officer (at present a Deputy Inspector-General with the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW) and the highest ranking one to have deposed in the case. Even the CBI court has designated her as the most important witness in the case. Her testimony could have far-reaching implications for the countrys polity.

Recalling the sequence of events on that fateful day, Anju Gupta said that Advani and other leaders had reached Ayodhya on the night of December 5. She had received Advani in the night at the Faizabad-Barabanki border, and her job as his personal security officer was to stick close to him and watch over him. The next morning, she said, they went to Ram Katha Kunj, a single-storey building, the roof of which was being used as a dais by the leaders to address kar sevaks. She said that when Advani and M.M. Joshi reached the place, VHP leader Vinay Katiyar was already making a speech in which he sarcastically said: Even a bird cannot flap its wings here. (This was to mock an earlier statement by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav in October 1990 when he had ordered a firing to prevent kar sevaks from reaching the mosque.) Joshi, she said, told the gathering that the temple would be constructed exactly where the mosque stood.

When she went to bring Advanis fleet of vehicles, parked near the police control room, she saw for the first time people scaling the walls of the disputed structure. This happened between 11-50 a.m. and 12 noon. I saw some people carrying the equipment used to demolish a building, like iron rods and ploughs, she said. She added that she immediately tried to contact the Ayodhya police control room.

Around 12-10 p.m., I gave my location to the control room and requested for force, but got no positive response. I again contacted the control room at 12-31 p,m, and made repeated requests, she was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying.

Anju Gupta said that when she came back to Ram Katha Kunj, she saw that people had already climbed the structure and were destroying it. I saw that there was an atmosphere of excitement on the dais where the leaders were present. On the basis of wireless information she informed Advani that some people had entered the disputed structure and were demolishing it. I told him that people were falling from the domes of the structure and were getting injured, upon which Advani expressed concern and expressed his willingness to go to the site. But I advised him against this, she said.

After consultations with senior officials, she told the BJP leader that it was not desirable for him to go there because if there was any mishap involving him, it might make the situation spin out of control. Advani then sent Uma Bharti to the spot but she came back after some time. Anju Gupta said that while the BJP and Sangh leaders continued to provoke kar sevaks by chanting slogans, the kar sevaks razed the structure to the ground. The first dome was demolished between 1-45 p.m. and 2 p.m. and the third and last one came down at 4-30 p.m. The PTI quotes her as saying that Advani made feeble attempts to ask the kar sevaks to climb down from the dome as they were falling down and injuring themselves.

She said Advani asked her to arrange a telephonic talk with the then Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh, and the District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police of Faizabad. She said she was not in a position to do so. However, the D.M. and the SSP came to the Ram Katha Kunj office after messages were sent to them, and they had a closed-door meeting with Advani and others. I came to know that Advani later had a telephonic conversation with the Chief Minister, she said. She added that when the last dome fell, Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Rithambara hugged each other, and they hugged Advani and Joshi too and distributed sweets. The PTI quotes her as saying that the atmosphere on the dais where Advani and others were sitting was one of jubilation and euphoria. Even as kar sevaks were pulling down the mosque, the BJP and VHP leaders kept singing bhajans, which grew louder by the minute, and Sadhvi Rithambara was chanting slogans like: Ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do (give one more push and demolish the mosque).

The defence lawyer has started to cross-examine Anju Gupta. The cross-examination will be resumed on April 23.

The statement of Anju Gupta, who watched the action from a distance of barely 150-175 metres, has been the most damning for the BJP. Its leaders are taken aback by the forthrightness of the statement, since it leaves no doubt about the intent of the BJP leaders, including Advani, that day.

No BJP leader is willing to speak on record, on the grounds that the matter is sub judice. Senior BJP leaders, however, agree that the statement has come as a major embarrassment for the party, especially at a time when it was trying to bounce back to its prominent position at the national level under a new and younger leadership.

Efforts to contact Advani remained futile as he refused to say anything on the issue. A close aide, however, tried to brazen it out by saying that the same police officer had given a different statement before the Liberhan Commission and that the party would expose the falsehood in her statement on the basis of her two versions. He said that she had never said anything about the distribution of sweets before the Liberhan Commission, and that she had added it now as an afterthought. The party is trying to caste a shadow of doubt on her credibility by insisting on calling her Anju Gupta Rizvi. It is trying to hammer in the point that her statement is prejudiced since she is married to a Muslim. .

Surprisingly, the Congress, the BJPs main political adversary, has not shown any excitement about the statement, except to say that it was a very crucial one. The subdued reaction outlines the fact that despite being of huge political significance, Anju Guptas statement may not exactly have any deleterious effect on the case. It would be premature to jump to any conclusions based on this statement alone, a fact that even Muslim organisations acknowledge. Nor will it expedite the case in any way.

According to Dr S.Q.R. Ilyas, spokesman for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the statement merely vindicates what the Muslim community has been saying for years. Now that there is no doubt about the role of senior BJP leaders in the demolition, Ilyas said, the government should immediately lodge a case against them under Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code (pertaining to charges of conspiracy), which was deleted from the CBI charge-sheet in 2003 during the tenure of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance regime. Advani was the Union Home Minister then.

What is required is political will and that, sad to say, seems to be missing , he said. He said that even after the Liberhan Report, which took an agonising 17 years to materialise, the government had taken no initiative to bring the guilty to book.

Dr Rehmani, president of the Muslim Political Council of India, agrees. He says the main civil case about the Babri Masjid land title is 47 years old and, in all likelihood, will continue for another 50 years. Political parties are merely using the issue for their gains and nobody wants to punish the guilty, he said.

It should be noted that the same IPS officers statement was used by Rae Bareli Special Court Magistrate V.K. Singh in 2003 to acquit Advani of all charges in the demolition case. He quoted selectively from the officers testimony to prove that the charges against Advani were based only on mere suspicion and not on grave suspicion. For example, Anju Guptas statement that Advani asked her what was happening was inferred by the judge as meaning that he was in the dark about the happenings. Similarly, quoting from her statement, he said since Advani expressed his willingness to go to the site, it meant he wanted to prevent the kar sevaks. Also, quoting Anju Gupta, he said that since Advani was on the mike asking kar sevaks to come down it meant he was asking them to stop demolishing the structure. He glossed over the fact that she had said Advani asked kar sevaks to come down because they were falling down from the dome and injuring themselves. In 2005, however, the Allahabad High Court reinstated the charges against Advani.

Such jugglery of words, political observers believe, could once again be used to twist facts. Hence the statement may not mean much at this juncture.

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