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Monday, April 12, 2021

Babri Masjid demolition: India’s judicial system blind & deaf? Find answer in 5 points

So the big judgment came. Quite expectedly (as the Indian judiciary is being considered as biased than ever following the Prashant Bhushan case), the special CBI court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused, including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, former union minister Murli Manohar Joshi, ex-Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti, in the Babri Masjid demolition case due to lack of conclusive evidence.

Ruling out the criminal conspiracy theory, the court held that the demolition on December 6, 1992 was a spontaneous act and not pre-planned. But we wonder, why cannot the court see what a conscious citizen see? In this article we shall discuss what all the accused in Babri Masjid demolition case did and how actually a conspiracy was hatched which the court failed take notice of.

The background

The Ayodhya developments started taking place right from the early 1980s, but situation turned grave on that dark Sunday of December 6, 1992. For any conscious citizen of this country, it is very hard to accept the Central Bureau of Investigation special court’s verdict. The court has handed a clean chit to the 32 people accused of criminal conspiracy for the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid.

Only a wilfully blind person could be convinced that there was no conspiracy and that the mosque was razed by an impulsive, angry mob comprising anti-social elements, believed to have snuck into the ancient temple town under the garb of kar sewaks. And it would require a wilfully deaf person to accept the court’s theory that the top BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders, present at the hotspot on that fateful day, actually tried to save the mosque, rather than incite anyone.

Babri Masjid demolition: Is our judicial system blind and deaf? Find answer in 5 points

1. What did the accused do when the mosque was being demolished?

Those who watched the events of the day from very close quarters and were among the key eyewitnesses in the trial by the special court, it is certainly impossible to digest the falsehoods systematically built up by the defence. Announcements were made on the public address system from the spot where top BJP and VHP leaders were seated to watch what was happening in the Babri Masjid quadrangle. “Yeh dhancha (read Babri Masjid) ab girne wala haiaap logon se anurodh hai ki gumbaz se neeche utar aayen (This structure is about to fall; those atop the domes are requested to come down),” was the call repeated on the PA system from the spot across the mosque where LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and their likes were seen happily perched on specially arranged chairs, a report said.

While the microphone was used more for raising provocative slogans to build the fervour against the mosque, this particular announcement urging people to climb down from the domes was also made in different Indian languages, perhaps for the benefit of kar sewaks drawn from different states. It’s impossible to view this announcement as an effort to protect the mosque – yet the special court’s judgement seems to have accomplished the impossible. It is more than obvious that such a call could come only from those who were aware that the demolition was to follow.

India judicial system
A policeman joins kar sevaks to celebrate after the demolition of Babri Masjid. Photo: ThePrint

2. What did the CBI court say while giving verdict?

All evidence gathered by the country’s premier investigation agency – CBI – has been rendered insufficient or weak by the court. And that was good enough reason for the court to not convict anyone. Top BJP leaders and their comrades-in-arms from the VHP and other hardline Hindutva bodies have been merrily absolved of all charges, simply because the video and audio clips furnished by CBI as the most incriminating evidence against them appeared to be either doctored or fabricated. At the end of a long trial, each of the 32 living accused persons were given a clean chit. Seventeen other accused died during the 28 years since the demolition.

India judicial system
All major media outlets condemned the CBI court judgment. Photo: Twitter

3. How does the verdict differ from Supreme Court observation?

Strangely, special court judge Surendra Kumar Yadav did not even care to take note of the specific remarks made by the five-judge Supreme Court bench that gave the final verdict in favour of the Ram temple in November 2019, in the Ayodhya title dispute case. The country’s apex court had termed the demolition of the mosque as a “calculated act”, which clearly implies some kind of conspiracy. The bench, headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had pointedly observed, “the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship.” It went on to add, “Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.” A similar sentiment was expressed in the report of the Justice Liberhan Commission, set up by the then PV Narasimha Rao government within days of the demolition. “The demolition was orchestrated,” stated Justice MS Liberhan, who took 17 long years to complete his findings.

But none of this seems to have had any bearing on the special court headed by Judge Yadav. Thanks to the Supreme Court, Yadav even got two extensions in service after he superannuated in September 2019. The idea was to maintain continuity in the case. Perhaps it is sheer coincidence that Justice Ranjan Gogoi retired as Chief Justice of India shortly after the temple verdict in November 2019. If today’s verdict is to be accepted, then one would have to believe that unlike any other crime, the demolition was neither an act of commission nor omission. Yet, the mosque was razed to the ground.

4. This is what the 5 main accused did to ensure Babri demolition

india judicial system
LK Advani and other leaders are watching as the Babri Masjid being demolished. Photo: ThePrint

LK Advani

It was 1990 and the BJP was hoping to expand its footprint nationally. In the 1984 general elections the party had won only two seats in the Lok Sabha; by 1989, the party had won over 80 seats. L.K. Advani, party president from 1989, undertook a rath yatra, which is considered directly responsible for two outcomes—the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 and the rise of the BJP to power. The rath (an air conditioned van re-fashioned to look like a chariot) was meant to mobilize people to converge upon Babri Masjid and began in Somnath, Gujarat. It was meant to culminate in Ayodhya but was stopped by Lalu Prasad Yadav, the then chief minister of Bihar, who ordered Advani arrested. But it had served its purpose: the BJP crossed the 100 mark in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. When the mosque was brought down on 6 December 1992, Advani, along with other BJP leaders, was present in Ayodhya, giving speeches to crowds of kar sevaks.

Kalyan Singh

It was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s duty to ensure the safety of the Babri Masjid, irrespective of his ideological leanings. But Singh’s reputation is forever sullied by the misleading statements he made in the run-up to 6 December. From written assurances to speeches in the assembly, he insisted his government would provide security to the disputed structure. Singh even submitted a four-point affidavit to the Supreme Court promising security of the mosque and assuring that only a symbolic kar seva would be allowed. Singh resigned within hours of the Babri Masjid being demolished but became UP CM again in 1997.

PV Narsimha Rao

As the prime minister, the buck for the demolition of the Babri Masjid stopped with P.V. Narasimha Rao. The act occurred on his watch and that too despite signs that it was inevitable. Rao was the 9th Prime Minister, whose tenure saw India’s economy liberalized. Yet his legacy is destined to be tainted by the demolition. There have been tell-all books—from his physician, media adviser, senior journalists and even former President Pranab Mukherjee—who have tried to piece together this curious case of inaction in the face of an impending threat.

It is believed Rao had the option to impose central rule in Uttar Pradesh in July and had even sought a contingency plan to protect the mosque. But eventually he did nothing. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s announcement in October of plans to perform a kar seva next to the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1990 led Rao to ask his home secretary Madhav Godbole to come up with a contingency plan. Several meetings between different players were to follow over the following days. Kalyan Singh, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, assured the Supreme Court that the mosque would be protected while Rao agonized over the question of dismissing the state government. Several theories have done the rounds over the years of what Rao was doing as the mosque was first overrun and then brought down by the kar sevaks and just why was this allowed to happen. History is tight-lipped on this, just as Rao himself was. Rao passed away in 2004.

Uma Bharti

Bharti owes her rise to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and was one of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders present at the rally in Ayodhya during which the Babri Masjid was demolished. The Liberhan Commission, set up to probe the events of that day, indicted her for inciting a mob to violence. Bharti, a firebrand politician, said she took moral responsibility for the incident but added that she will fight the indictment legally as she had no hand in the destruction of the mosque.

Ashok Singhal

Often called the architect of the Ram Mandir movement, Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal was one of the most important public figures from the Sangh Parivar—a man who shot into the limelight in the 1980s on the back of the Ayodhya movement. Singhal launched the Ram Janaki Rath Yatra in 1984 and demanded that locks be opened up at the Babri Masjid gates. Considered close to both L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he was present in Ayodhya on 6 December. He was disenchanted with Vajpayee after the National Democratic Alliance government under him put the Ram Janmabhoomi issue on the back burner post 1998. Singhal died in 2015.

5. Babri demolition riots killed over 2000 people in India, is court blind?

The destruction of the Babri Mosque sparked Muslim outrage around the country, provoking several months of inter-communal rioting in which Hindus and Muslims attacked one another, burning and looting homes, shops and places of worship. Several of the BJP leaders were taken into custody, and the VHP was briefly banned by the government. Despite this, the ensuing riots spread to cities like Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhopal and several others, eventually resulting in over 2000 deaths, mainly Muslim. The Mumbai Riots alone, which occurred in December 1992 and January 1993 and which the Shiv Sena played a big part in organising, caused the death of around 900 people, and estimated property damage of around ₹ 9,000 crore ($3.6 billion). The demolition and the ensuing riots were among the major factors behind the 1993 Mumbai bombings and many successive riots in the coming decade. Jihadi groups including the Indian Mujahideen cited the demolition of the Babri Mosque as a reason for their terrorist attacks. So all accused acquitted by the CBI court are responsible for death of innocent people, destruction of property, disruption of peace among other crimes.

Deafness and blindness of the judiciary is only ruining India’s democracy. One can only pray for this to change for the better.

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