Who killed Babri?

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Who killed the late Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, 28 years ago?  No one in particular, if you go by the findings of the court asked to fix responsibility for the demolition of the historic mosque, built by Emperor Babar, that fateful day in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.  Reminds me of the compelling manner in which a former Prime Minister, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, to wit, gave a few of us his account of the demolition. The man had apparently remained the whole day in touch with the Senior Cabinet Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar, to wit, virtually giving him a blow by blow account of the demolition and urging him all the time to persuade his boss, P V Narasimha Rao, the Prime Minister to move in the Army. 

Each time he got an alibi from the PM’s House, until the mosque was razed.  Rao, except once for his first call, did not take any of Pawar’s subsequent calls. Leaving the marauders free to do whatever they willed, egged on by the presence of the BJP stalwarts. The rest is history including a Supreme Court ruling favouring construction of a “befitting” Ram Janambhoomi Mandir at the site of the martyred mosque. 

The latest Judicial pronouncement did not really have much to do with the fate of the Babri Masjid; its purpose was to identify the prime movers of the demolition saga, the BJP stalwarts, headed by L K Advani who had earlier headed the Ram Janambhoomi Rath Yatra and was now seated on a decorated platform in front of which the demolition took place. 

The purpose was to assess their role in the seizure and destruction of the 500 year old mosque and related happenings in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.  The latest verdict came after a painful wait, a sort of footnote eventually to the demolition of the mosque and the “go ahead” to the temple given by the Supreme Court. 

The battle for the mosque was indeed lost the day the Supreme Court gave a nod to the temple being raised where had stood the Babri Masjid. A special CBI court had, however, continued to try the 32 accused including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati. 

The judge rejected evidence from photographs, videos, speeches of the accused, raised questions on the conclusions drawn by the prosecution and speaks of possible involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies and anti-social elements and terrorists disguised as kar sevaks who had taken charge of the doomed mosque.  No mention really of the presence of top BJP leadership on the platform at the site. The judge inferred there was no evidence that the accused had met “inside a room” to plan the razing of the mosque. 

A bit of perverse reading of the evidence before the Court.  Despite the Supreme Court calling the demolition an egregious violation of the rule of law this week’s verdict by the CBI court gives an institutional sheen to the temple movement.  The BJP even in government always drew a distinction between being named in a corruption case, a ground for resignation, and a political case like Babri it hemmed and hawed initially until Advani took out his rath yatra.

When it came to the title suit the consensus was it should be left to the Supreme Court and the criminal case arising out of the demolition of the mosque in the presence of the top leadership of the day of the BJP should continue to proceed in a CBI Court. 

Then has come about the unraveling of the “legal” approval to the issue both launched under the BJP’s watch. The upshot now in that Special Court: it has acquitted all the 32 accused in the demolition case.  In the 2300 page judgement the court rejected all evidence from photos, videos and speeches of the accused, raised questions on the conclusions drawn by the prosecution and spoke of possible involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies and terrorists disguised as kar sevaks brought together by the RSS – perverse assumptions to go by the available records.

To cut the sordid story short, the question who killed Babri Masjid must remain unanswered except for the facts that are known and have unfortunately gone unnoticed or deliberately ignored.  The question now confronting is the call already given by right wing Hindu outfits, all owing allegiance to the saffron family, for the demolition of the mosques in Brindavan (to make room for a “grand” temple to mark out Lord Krishna’s birthplace) and the one at Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi to be dedicated to Lord Shiva.

There should be no problem in demolishing the existing mosques etc. at the two spots, Babri having set the pace.  For the rest you can be sure accommodating legal system will be on hand to fill the blanks.  Frankly, I am frightened by the tone of the saffron clothed men who have thrown the Vrindavan and Varanasi challenge and chosen to give it high priority.  Official patronage is no problem.  It’s a matter so close to the hearts of the saffronites.

To sum up in the words of a national daily “The Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, but there was no demolition plan, nor any demolition men and women, just an on-the-spur outburst by unknown “anti-social elements”.  That’s the essence of the verdict by the Special Court in Lucknow in the 28 year old case on Wednesday, acquitting all the surviving 32 accused.  It challenges facts and does not promise closure”.