January 1, 1993

The wrecking crew: In Ayodhya, demolition and after

Print edition : February 06, 2015

December 6, 1992: The demolition of the Babri Masjid in progress. Photo: The Hindu Archives

“Yeh tho sirf jhanki hai, Ab Mathura, Kashi baaki hai.”

(This is only the trailer, Now, Mathura and Kashi remain.)

Thus chanted kar sevaks as they moved out of Ayodhya after the paramilitary forces evacuated them on December 8. The slogan did not reflect the aggressiveness implied in it as much as it did the sense of contentment.


 

Like everything else relating to the Hindutva combine’s “operation demolition”, the cool withdrawal by kar sevaks took the outside world by surprise. There were expectations, as news spread of the paramilitary forces moving in, of resistance and innumerable casualties. But nothing of that kind happened. The kar sevaks gave in without even a semblance of a fight.

Giving reasons for the seemingly meek withdrawal, a group of RSS volunteers from Kerala said: “We knew that they [the paramilitary forces] would move in in the early hours of December 8. Since December 7 afternoon we were given clear instructions on what to do. After all, we had fulfilled our brief—of demolishing the Babri Masjid.”

Another group from Bihar said it had even rehearsed the withdrawal on December 7. “Of course, since it was early morning and since many were still drowsy, some of us made some mistakes. But, overall things went according to plan,” said Ram Ashray Prasad, group leader from Munger.

What was the plan? According to a top Uttar Pradesh Bajrang Dal leader, it was the demolition of the disputed structure. “We had planned it right from the last week of September; 1,200 volunteers were given training. An engineer from Orissa studied the structure and assigned jobs to various groups. That is how the base of the structure and the domes were simultaneously attacked, unlike in October- November 1990 when only the domes were targeted. Without this planning how do you think we razed the masjid in six hours? Do you think a group of frenzied kar sevaks could have gone about it so systematically?”

And the mistakes? According to him, the mistake was that the work was executed to perfection. What the combine had expected, while finalising the plan, was an intervention by the Centre that would have resulted in the “martyrdom” of hundreds of kar sevaks, leaving the job half done. The political factor it had in mind was a mid-term poll as a result of these developments and its victory on a sympathy wave.

But it was not as if there was no plan in case of inaction by the Centre. Only, it could not be put into action as things went out of the control of the leadership. Since December 4 itself, the trained volunteers had been adamant on doing the job, and the majority of the untrained ones had given them unstinted support.

Every effort was made to implement at the last minute the alternative plan—of cleaning, washing and chiselling the platform constructed in July on the 2.774 acre disputed land along with construction on the undisputed land.

The Hindutvaleadership did try to enforce this plan, even on December 5. That day, Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Ashok Singhal went around talking to kar sevaks to try and dissuade them from storming the mosque. But they were not ready to listen to him, and he was almost manhandled. “We have come to do kar seva, not kaal seva,” the kar sevaks are reported to have told him.

The main problem the leadership faced in getting the alternative plan implemented was its own rhetoric, used all along to attract kar sevaks to Ayodhya and keep them in high spirits. Even after giving the assurance in the Supreme Court that kar seva would be confined to bhajans and kirtans, the leaders continued with their tactics. BJP veteran L.K. Advani, who began a mini-rath yatra on December 1 from Varanasi, in what was supposedly a manoeuvre to calm the kar sevaks, started off by saying that the “kar seva will not just be singing bhajans and kirtans” and that the “court has no right to decide what kar seva is”. Throughout the yatra, he continued in this vein. The same was the case with BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi’s yatra from Mathura.

The leadership was hoping the demolition plan would not be acted upon. Even on December 6 morning, the leadership hoped the kar sevaks would somehow control themselves or would be controlled. Thus Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh volunteers were placed around the disputed land and the disputed structure along with the State’s Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) jawans. On the hypothesis that the kar sevaks could be controlled, arrangements were made to start the construction work on the land adjoining the 2.774 acres. The advancing of the iron pole marking the boundary of the disputed area by one metre at 8-15 a.m. on December 6 was part of this arrangement.

Hindutva combine watchers and mediapersons were led to believe by the leadership, through careful leaks, that the kar seva would stick to this plan. The position taken by the U.P. government in the Supreme Court on the nature of the kar seva had also affirmed this belief. The so-called compulsion of the BJP to retain the State government was another factor that clouded the vision of most.

But the Muslims of Ayodhya and Faizabad had warned mediapersons and the administration that the disputed structure would be stormed. Mohammed Yunus Siddiqui, a leader of Faizabad, had even written to the district administration about his fears.

But Siddiqui’s apprehensions were dismissed by both. “The combine is not yet ready for this,” was the reaction of the press. The administration maintained it was only a typical case of paranoia and insecurity of the Muslims. But Siddiqui was proved right.

The Hindutva leaders who had tried to stick to the alternative plan also succumbed 20 minutes after the first kar sevak got on top of the dome as it became clear to them that the U.P. government would be dismissed anyway and that they had lost control over the kar sevaks. From then on they gave all encouragement to the kar sevaks. This was evident in L.K. Advani exhorting the kar sevaks over the public address system at 3-15 p.m. to block all entry points to Ayodhya.

Despite all this, the BJP-VHP-RSS leadership maintained that the demolition was not planned. It continued with the statement given out after the demolition that it was the work of either miscreants or a group of overenthusiastic kar sevaks. But a number of questions beg answers. How was it possible to demolish such a huge structure in just six hours when a single-storey building takes more time to demolish even with the help of bulldozers? How was the construction material arranged so quickly to construct the five-feet-high wall around the idol of Ram Lala after it was replaced at the demolished site? How did a qualified engineer arrive to oversee the construction of the wall, within minutes of the demolition?

There were more questions: Why did Advani advance his visit to Ayodhya by a night? He was scheduled to reach there by 1 p.m. on December 6 after the starting of the kar seva (at 12-15 p.m.). But he was asked to come to Ayodhya on December 5 night itself. What transpired at the meeting between him, Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar and Shiv Sena Parliamentary Party leader Moreshwar Save, on December 6 morning? If the kar seva was to be confined to the 2.774 acres and the areas adjoining it, all of which are at the ground level, where was the need for Advani to have a pair of binoculars?

The other important question is: Was the Centre aware of the demolition plan? Inquiries reveal that as early as December 1, intelligence officials had noted that kar sevaks overwhelmingly favoured the demolition. They were also aware of the announcement made on December 5 over the public address system calling trained volunteers for the final rehearsal, which Central intelligence officers in Ayodhya and Faizabad had even witnessed.

The Centre’s argument that it had placed the paramilitary forces at the disposal of the State government since the last week of November and that Lucknow had not used them does not cut ice in the wake of the criminal apathy in the 48 hours starting from December 6. According to VHP sources, even the operation to evacuate the kar sevaks, on December 8 morning, was decided upon after Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao talked to Vinay Katiyar, who is supposed to have assured him that there would be no resistance.

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