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A SEARING PAST...
- Babri panel high on purple prose, low on specifics

New Delhi, Nov. 24: The Liberhan commission has termed the Babri Masjid demolition pre-meditated but has provided few “actionable” details to substantiate links of the then senior BJP leaders other than Kalyan Singh to the “conspiracy”.

Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan’s inquiry report has cited detailed instances to accuse then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan of using state power to prepare for the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992. (See chart)

It also holds senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi “culpable”.

But the 1,029-page report tabled in Parliament today appears thin on specifics to directly link Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi to the conspiracy.

It classifies the culpable into three categories — those directly involved in demolishing the mosque, those responsible for complicity and those who did not perform their duty in protecting the structure. At various stages in the report, Liberhan says different public figures involved in the Ram Mandir agitation are responsible to different extents.

But the report concludes by specifically naming all these public figures — 68 in all — individually culpable under a single category, blaming them as responsible for leading the country to the “brink of communal discord”.

This is the only section where the report specifically names people “individually” culpable — the report does not divide the 68 named individuals into the three categories it mentions.

The 68 individuals found culpable include Vajpayee, Advani, Joshi and the late Pramod Mahajan among 16 BJP leaders. The list includes Uma Bharti, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, VHP leaders like Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia and RSS leaders like former chief K.S. Sudarshan.

The report packs hard-hitting words that should make Advani and Vajpayee — the former Prime Minister was not called to depose before Liberhan — squirm. But the generalised nature of the conclusions raises the question whether the commission needed 17 years to come up with statements that are not much different from what several political commentators have been saying all along.

“It cannot be assumed even for a moment that L.K. Advani, A.B. Vajpayee or M.M. Joshi did not know the designs of the Sangh parivar. …They were party to the decisions that had been taken,” the report said.

The assertion does not fly against independent perceptions but an initial reading of the report did not throw up information to back up the assumption — something that is expected of an official commission that has gone into the most divisive event in India since Partition.

The report’s strongest argument suggesting that Advani and Joshi wanted the mosque demolished, and were complicit in the act, involves their inability to stop the demolition. Although Advani and Joshi tried to ask the kar sevaks to climb down from the mosque’s domes, they made no such attempts to convince the kar sevaks identified by the report as the men who actually brought the mosque down, according to the commission.

The kar sevaks who had entered the garbh griha and were pulling down walls — which brought down the domes — were not addressed by Advani, Joshi and others. “This selected act of the leaders itself speaks about the hidden intentions of one and all being to accomplish demolition of the disputed structure,” the report said.

It dubs BJP “icons” like Advani, Vajpayee and Joshi “pseudo-moderates” — a label Advani who used to call critics “pseudo-secularists” is likely to find particularly galling.

The commission also refers to an embarrassing episode in Vajpayee’s political career. The much-repeated and much-denied remarks attributed to Govindacharya who called Vajpayee a mukhota or a mask may be more appropriately applied to the BJP’s top leadership at the time collectively, according to the report.

The report, which was handed over to the government in June, also makes observations that assume remarkable political — not legal — relevance now.

“The pseudo-moderate leadership of the BJP was as much of a tool in the hands of the RSS as any other organisation or entity.... The BJP was and remains an appendage of the RSS which had the purpose of only providing an acceptable veneer to the less popular decisions and a facade to the brash minds of the Sangh parivar,” the report said.

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