Playing it safe

Published : Sep 26, 2003 00:00 IST

DID the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party plan the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992? Ten years after the demolition, a conclusive answer to this question remains a distant possibility. This became apparent on September 2, when former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who had said that he would disclose the conspiracy hatched by the BJP leaders, failed to appear before the Liberhan Commission.

Predictably, those accused of conspiring to demolish the mosque have not yet faced any court of law. As Kalyan Singh had managed to evade deposing several times in the past, the Commission decided to adopt a much stricter line this time. It issued a bailable warrant against him and asked him to appear before it on September 23. Rejecting the plea of counsel that Kalyan Singh could not come owing to political developments in Uttar Pradesh, Justice Liberhan said: "Keeping in view the chequered sequence of events with respect to the summoning of Kalyan, I find no sufficient cause for his non-appearance, especially when no date has been fixed for the vote of confidence."

On the same day, a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice S. Rajendra Babu declined to stay the proceedings before the Rae Bareli court against Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and seven others. The stay had been sought on the grounds that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had diluted the case against Advani, Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP leaders Uma Bharati and Vinay Katiyar and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal, Sadhvi Ritambara and V.H. Dalmia by dropping the charge of conspiring to raze the mosque. Questions about the planned nature of the demolition as also the conspiracy angle, have been raised since December 6, 1992. The issue has been taken up several times by the Liberhan Commission.

In June, Kalyan Singh brought the conspiracy angle to the fore when he said that BJP and VHP leaders were lying when they said that they had no idea about what was going to happen on December 6, 1992. He said that a deep-rooted conspiracy had been hatched by the BJP leadership to demolish the mosque. He had even said that he would testify in all the courts and before the commission of inquiry probing the demolition (Frontline, August 1, 2003). However, it became clear on September 2 that Kalyan Singh was again playing truant.

In April 2001, Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande had said that the demolition was a pre-mediated and well-planned exercise carried out by experts who knew "structural engineering". This was apparent to her from the fact that the domes of the mosque fell from the base. While Nirmala Deshpande had gone into the logistics of the demolition, others have referred to the meeting at which the blueprint of the act was allegedly prepared by the BJP leadership. References have been made to a secret meeting that took place on December 5, 1992, at the residence of Vinay Katiyar, which was attended by Advani. It is at this meeting that the plan was allegedly finalised. The June 7 disclosure by Mahant Ram Narain Das, who was the priest of the makeshift Ram temple in 1992, supports this charge. He was later removed from the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. He said: "During the crucial meeting on the eve of the demolition at the Ram Katha Sanghralaya, adjacent to the disputed site in Ayodhya, Advani, Uma Bharati and others gave fiery speeches to instigate kar sevaks to pull down the mosque. We were assured support too." An embittered Das said: "First the kar sevaks were provoked to raze the structure and now they want to get away with it, leaving us to face the gallows."

MEANWHILE, Kalyan Singh said in Lucknow that the Liberhan order was illegal and that it would not deter him from his stand of not appearing before it unless Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani were also present.

Kalyan Singh's deposition is important for several reasons. He was the Chief Minister at the time of the demolition and he was in charge of the security arrangements on that fateful day. Moreover, he would be able to shed light on how the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) was not allowed admission to the site and how the kar sevaks obstructed the movement of the paramilitary forces from Faizabad to Ayodhya. Similarly, he would be helpful in explaining the rationale behind the decision of not resorting to firing on the rampaging mobs.

Before the Commission, leaders like Advani and Joshi evaded questions on the security arrangements, saying that it was for Kalyan Singh to answer them. When Joshi was asked if the BJP national leadership had considered the possibility of making security arrangements, he said: "We had advised them (the State government) to take proper measures for the security of the disputed structure and that is why Kalyan Singh had given an assurance. Thereafter, the responsibility and duty of making all security arrangements lay with the State government or its administration."

Similarly, on the decision not to open fire on the mobs, Joshi said that neither he nor Advani had discussed that with Kalyan Singh. Joshi said that he was not even aware of such an order at that time.

However, it is clear that Kalyan Singh does not want to go on record against his former mentors. The politician in him wants to play it safe. His position is complicated by the political turnaround he has made since 1992. At the time of the demolition he was a BJP stalwart, championing the construction of the temple by razing the mosque. Now he is a castaway from the party, trying to cover up his dubious record.

It was with the possibility of shedding light on the conspiracy theory that senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A.M. Singhvi appeared before the Supreme Court pleading for the restoration of the conspiracy charge against Advani and others as made originally in the composite charge-sheet filed by the CBI in October 1993.

Seen in conjunction, these developments have once again relegated key questions to the background. These include: was the Centre aware that as early as December 1, intelligence officials had noted that kar sevaks overwhelmingly favoured demolition? And if the demolition was not planned, why did the kar sevaks conduct a dry run on December 5?

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