The modern history of the Babri Masjid began on December 23, 1949 when, by a sudden, dramatic, surreptitious, criminal overnight act, a mosque of 500 years was converted into a temple
Ever since September 30, 2010 when the high court of Allahabad at Lucknow pronounced its verdict, my mind has been occupied with that judgement: A medieval judgement written in an age when secularism was farthest from the human imagination. On the way from Chandigarh this morning I was browsing through Max Müller’s slim tract written way back in the 19th century, now republished, Rammohan to Ramakrishna – Ram Mohan Roy to Ramakrishna. Müller speaks of the mythological process on the one hand, the dialogic or the dialectical process on the other, in relation to religions of miracle and revelation. And somewhere in his discussion of Ramakrishna he throws in this expression, if my memory serves me right: “The miraculous tendencies of devoted disciples… the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples”.
It is not my purpose today to speak on the Allahabad judgement. But before I move on to the important issues assigned to me today, 1949 and 1992, allow me to say that the two judgements – the real majority judgements – of Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Dharam Veer Sharma reflect, with some differences in style, language and approach but essentially the same theme, the religion of miracle and revelation, the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples of an ancient, hidebound, regressive, scriptural, ritualistic, sacramental Hinduism.
Let us return from that rhetoric to something which happened in 1949, on December 23, 1949, which marks the starting point of the modern history of the Babri Masjid.
Whatever be your views about the religion of Hinduism, about the oral traditions, about Ramjanmabhoomi, Ram Janmasthan, Ram Lalla in Ayodhya – I have very strong views on this – but whatever be your views about history, about religion, about the oral traditions, about the hazards and the terrors of reading oral tradition and a backward, hidebound interpretation of religion into law, in the year of grace 2010 there can be no manner of doubt that in a way, in a manner of speaking, all that is completely irrelevant, given what happened on December 23, 1949. At 4:00 a.m. on December 23, 1949.
That is when the idols of Ram Lalla, the baby Ram, were surreptitiously imported beneath the central dome from the outer courtyard, from the Ram Chabutra outside to beneath the central dome in the inner courtyard. A first information report, or FIR, was recorded. Though the fortuitous happenstance of his agreeing with Justice Agarwal on giving the area under the central dome to the Hindus instead of the Muslims makes it appear to the entire nation that he is one of the majority judges, the September 30 judgement of Justice SU Khan of the Lucknow bench is essentially a minority judgement. One of the great merits of Justice Khan’s judgement is the light that it throws on the events of December 1949.
I have by now read twice over, word by word, Justice Agarwal’s 5,000-plus pages (in 21 volumes) and the 1,100-plus pages (in four volumes) of Justice DV Sharma. They have to be carefully read to develop a critique. Whatever one might say about the merits of these two judgements on other issues, the extraordinary silence maintained by both judges on 1949 destroys any merit their judgements might otherwise have had.
As many as four volumes, almost five volumes, on the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report. There is volume after volume on the Vedas, on the Upanishads, on all kinds of Vedic and post-Vedic scriptures. There is also volume after volume on the Gazetteers of Carnegy and Nevill and Thornton and Benett, all of them in Ayodhya. There is hardly anything on which Justice Agarwal, undoubtedly a very capable judge, has not written. Yet he is comprehensively silent on one of the central issues wherein the modern history of the Babri Masjid begins – December 1949 – when the images of the child Ram, or Ram Lalla, were installed under the central dome of the Babri Masjid. One suit that has been decreed by the Allahabad high court is the Ram Lalla title suit, a suit filed by the legal fiction of Ram Lalla which has a legal and juristic personality.
Ram Lalla ki murti, December 23, 1949 ki subah, na jaane kis tarike se, by some miracle of religion, is implanted under the central dome and a masjid turned into a temple overnight. I asked Lal Krishna Advani when I was cross-examining him before the Liberhan Commission: Would you believe with your rational mind that something of this sort could happen, that the apparition, that the image of Ram Lalla, that the deity or the murti of Ram Lalla could itself appear one fine morning, never before since 1528. Understandably, he ducked the answer.
1949 to 2010. Sixty years have passed.
We have a judicial system capped by an apex court which, I am fond of saying, is not only the most powerful but also the busiest apex court in the world. A proactive apex court; all taken together, an extremely capable apex court whose activism we are witnessing even today.
Would you believe it? If someone can correct me on this point I’ll be happily corrected but to the best of my knowledge, and I spent 10 years on the Liberhan Commission researching this, that FIR of 1949 was never investigated. A crucial FIR regarding the Babri Masjid which would have demolished all those who sought to and did demolish the Babri Masjid was never investigated. The criminal justice system simply did not take off. That, I repeat – and this is not a cliché, emotion wells up in me when I make this point over and over again – is the starting point of the modern history of the Babri Masjid when, by a sudden, dramatic, surreptitious, criminal overnight act, at 4:00 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 1949 a masjid of 500 years was converted into a temple.
The real majority judgements – of Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Dharam Veer Sharma – reflect, with some differences in style, language and approach but essentially the same theme, the religion of miracle and revelation, the miraculising tendencies of devoted disciples of an ancient, hidebound, regressive, scriptural, ritualistic, sacramental Hinduism
The first lesson therefore is that – please internalise this – Ayodhya goes far beyond the legal system, far beyond the justice system, far beyond the criminal justice system. As to whatever happened post-1949, we will come to that. But 1949 represents the visible abortion or miscarriage of the Indian criminal justice system.
Those of you who have studied Jawaharlal Nehru, please look up volume 14 of his Selected Works, the second series, published by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. Look up his letters written in December 1949 (pages 434-444, if I am not wrong).
Although the rath yatra of 1990 nationalised the Ayodhya movement and gave it an all-India character, before that, Babri Masjid/ Ramjanmabhoomi was, as VP Singh told us in the Liberhan Commission, just a local address in Ayodhya. Go back to volume 14 of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, when no one knew about Ramjanmabhoomi. It was not an issue at all, certainly not a political issue. There was no rioting, just some local disturbances which you might find in history books, something Romila Thapar and Dr S. Gopal, Radhakrishnan’s illustrious son, might write about and the Hindutva library might dismiss perhaps because it comes from them, these great modern scholars of Indian history.
It was Jawaharlal Nehru who, in the confidentiality and privacy of his personal communications to C. Rajagopalachari (the then governor general of India), to Govind Ballabh Pant (then the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, later the home minister of India) and to others, expressed his deep sense of concern at the crime, at the sacrilegious act which had taken place, at the utterly irreligious act in the name of Hinduism, in the name of Ram and Ram Lalla, which had taken place in the Babri Masjid with the silent connivance, with the active collusion, of the then district magistrate/ deputy commissioner of Faizabad who later joined the Jan Sangh, KKK Nayar – three K’s, Nayar – who openly defied the directions of the state government. Nayar wrote to Govind Ballabh Pant, to Bhagwan Sahay, the then chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, who had forwarded Nehru’s message: “Have them removed? Remove me,” he said, a man of religious conviction, “but I will not get these idols removed.” And there they remained till December 6, 1992.
The domes are demolished from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from the Ram Katha Kunj barely a couple of hundred yards away, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti and all the others watch the show as if seated in the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery in Parliament, quietly, amidst all the chaos.
It was an act of god, they told us, some things happen on their own… this was an act of god, beyond human control, unexpected, unanticipated, beyond human foreseeability. But during that chaotic “act of god” from morning till evening one small wilfully organised act of stealth nonetheless took place, as had taken place in December 1949. The idol of Ram Lalla which had been surreptitiously placed beneath the central dome on December 23, 1949 was taken out, kept somewhere else and once the demolition was complete, put back under the central dome.
I asked Narasimha Rao, I asked VP Singh, I asked Advani, I asked Joshi about this but none of them had any answer. You could see it in their body language. I said it to them publicly, with the fullest sense of responsibility, with no overkill and no rhetoric, that this was a simple rheostat which in itself proves that the demolition was a conspiracy even if you have no other evidence for it. In that entire chaos why should Ram Lalla be taken out and then be put back again?
What legal system are we talking about? In 1986 we are presented with a fait accompli thanks to “divine inspiration”. The judge who orders the unlocking of the gates of the Babri Masjid is accompanied by a monkey from the courtroom to his home
And what does Narasimha Rao’s government do? Narasimha Rao also testified before us – by far the most formidable witness I have ever examined. I must frankly confess that he almost gave me an inferiority complex, and I am a very proud man. Advani saab loves to talk. It is easy to draw him out. He is a master of the unrebutted half-truth; if you catch him, the falsehood falls to the ground. But Narasimha Rao wore his intellectual superiority on his sleeve. He would not speak and when he did, getting a one-liner out of him needed three hours of cross-examination. Yet that very learned, highly erudite, at the end of it a little too wily – too wily even for himself – man was upstaged by the sangh parivar.
One month after the demolition, Narasimha Rao enacts an ordinance that was later replaced by an act (the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993) which was withheld by adjudication along with the presidential reference to the Supreme Court in the Ismail Faruqui case (M. Ismail Faruqui & Ors vs Union of India & Ors, 1994). January 7, 1993 was the cut-off point: Let the status quo remain as before January 7, 1993; as to the rest, please advise. For various reasons the Supreme Court returned the reference but allowed the idol of Ram Lalla, which had been installed on December 23, 1949 and which was temporarily moved out during the demolition on December 6, 1992, to remain in the same spot. The idol survived the demolition; nothing else did.
If I criticise the majority judgement in the Ismail Faruqui case as well, please forgive me. Perhaps I am too secular for contemporary consumption. But secularism for me is not merely the absence of communal riots. It is not merely living in harmony or the absence of disharmony. Secularism under the Indian Constitution as bequeathed by none other than Jawaharlal Nehru is a secular consciousness which refuses to compromise with anything that is not secular.
The Masjid was constructed in 1528. (Though Justice Sudhir Agarwal said it was constructed in the 18th century. But I’m not on that, I know his grasp of history. And Justice Sharma says it was not a masjid at all. Then why demolish it? That almost ends the debate, the demolition debate, as it were. But I’m not on that either.)
On February 1, 1986 the district judge of Faizabad, KM Pandey, ordered the opening of the locks on the Babri Masjid so as to facilitate puja of the idol that had been placed there in December 1949. Judge Pandey was later elevated to the high court. After his retirement, he published his memoirs, Voice of Conscience, the preface to which was written by another distinguished high court judge. Pandey saab writes that it was divine inspiration that prompted him to order the opening of the locks. What was this divine inspiration?
“When I left the district court after ordering the opening of the locks to facilitate darshan of the Ram Lalla idol which had been placed there in 1949, I saw a monkey, a divine monkey, perched on the roof of the courthouse (presumably a reference to Hanumanji). And when I reached home at 4 p.m., I found the monkey was still there outside. I saluted him. It was divine inspiration.”
What legal system are we talking about? In the 60 years since then no one has seen fit to even begin investigations into the FIR of 1949. Meanwhile, in 1986 we are presented with a fait accompli thanks to “divine inspiration”. The judge who orders the unlocking of the gates of the Babri Masjid is accompanied by a monkey from the courtroom to his home. I salute him, this man of conviction. No, not a corrupt man; please, for god’s sake, don’t describe him as a corrupt man. Here is a man acting out of conviction. And that is the problem, the tragedy of Indian secularism. The secularists have no convictions any more. They just want to avoid, to avert a law and order situation.
The country was not plunged into crisis after the September 30 judgement; there were no riots, no lives were lost, all is well. What difference does it make? Who will read Agarwal saab’s 5,000-plus pages on Hinduism? You are not going to read them, nor will I. It is a matter of history, another fait accompli, just as December 1949 became another fait accompli. Even Govind Ballabh Pant, a man as tall as Sardar Patel, dithered when in 1949 Nehru asked to have the idols removed. A district magistrate, a deputy commissioner of Faizabad had greater strength and greater say than the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and India’s first prime minister. The idols remained there.
Justice Khan mentions in his judgement that in September 2009 all the original files, the official documents pertaining to 1949 were summoned by the full bench of the Allahabad high court at Lucknow. Interestingly, only Justice Khan refers to this fact; there is no mention of it whatsoever in the 5,019 pages of Justice Sudhir Agarwal or the 1,130 pages of Justice Dharam Veer Sharma.
Justice Sudhir Agarwal is a very capable judge, who can write a judgement that runs to over 5,000 pages. I have yet to see another judge in the country capable of such titanic intellectual labour for which I compliment him even though I completely disagree with the entire reasoning and the conclusions of his judgement, which are outright perverse. A wrong reading of history, a wrong reading of religion, with secularism as a value, as a word, as semantics, totally absent from the entire judgement which reads as if it were written somewhere in 1528 or whenever the Babri Masjid was constructed!
We learn from Justice Khan’s judgement that those files were summoned and that Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters were found in the files, something that was hitherto unknown. The files also revealed that KKK Nayar wrote two long letters to Bhagwan Sahayji, chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, refusing to act against the illegality of 1949 on the plea that it would lead to riots. Just as on December 5 and 6, 1992 the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh, pleaded that if he were to order police firing to prevent the demolition, it would precipitate a bloodbath. This is exactly what the then district magistrate/ deputy commissioner, KKK Nayar, claimed in the long letters written to Bhagwan Sahayji on December 26 and 27, 1949.
Decades have passed, half a century has passed but the basic argument remains the same: Hum isse touch karenge, if we touch this, if we try to undo an unsecular, anti-secular, act, toh fasad ho jayenge, peeche hat jao, there will be riots, leave it alone.
The bar is lowered with every crisis. We just do not join issue and everything becomes a grand fait accompli. A mosque is demolished and a temple constructed in its place. Did anyone consult the ASI?
My last question on behalf of the Liberhan Commission was put to Kalyan Singh who happened to be the last witness, the hundredth witness, to appear before the commission. This was in 2004. For 10 years Kalyan Singh had managed to stay away from the commission thanks to a stay order which allowed him to avoid appearing before it. By the time he finally deposed the 2003 excavations at Ayodhya had been completed and the ASI had submitted its report. When he testified, in a deposition that runs to 400 pages, he placed before the commission the last chapter of the ASI report, ‘Summary of Results’ (in support of his stand on the Ram temple).
During that chaotic “act of god” on December 6, 1992 one small wilfully organised act of stealth nonetheless took place, as had taken place in December 1949. The idol of Ram Lalla which had been surreptitiously placed beneath the central dome on December 23, 1949 was taken out, kept somewhere else and once the demolition was complete, put back under the central dome
I had already read both volumes of the ASI report. It was an excavation ordered by the high court of Allahabad. We had no jurisdiction but since one of the principal accused had cited it in his defence, I thought I could ask these questions. Justice Liberhan said: “These are your personal questions, not those of the (Liberhan) Commission.” I said: “Yes, I stand by these questions. I want my views to go on record as a matter of history.”
You will see, I said, that this is a brazen departure from the scientific bases and time-tested methods of archaeological excavation. The fragmentary evidences contained in these two volumes, chapter after chapter, they do not lend themselves to any conclusion that there was a temple beneath, least of all that it was demolished. It is nothing but a supremely imaginative, subjective conclusion. Finally, I said that this report, especially the last chapter, has been written by someone ideologically, intellectually and politically predetermined to create a temple beneath the disputed structure and to provide the ultimate historical justification for the demolition of the mosque above it. This is what I put before Kalyan Singh when he deposed before the commission in 2004.
Debates on the issue will, of course, continue. You have already heard KM Shrimali saab (also present at the symposium). If you are seriously interested in the archaeological aspects, you must read the books written by Professor D. Mandal, one of our finest archaeologists, in 2003 and, in 2007, Ayodhya: Archaeology after Excavation, a book co-authored by D. Mandal and Shereen Ratnagar. Despite the fact that Justice Agarwal has passed strictures against him, against all of them – Jaya Menon, Supriya Varma and others who had testified before the court along with Professor Mandal – they are men to be defended, at least men to be read.
Archaeology is a very fragile, vulnerable, tricky subject. Just because you can see the Taj Mahal aboveground does not mean that that is the end of the matter. What lies beneath the ground, how many layers lie beneath, to which period do they belong, what does it all mean? Animal bones, terracotta fragments and other relics are found. It takes a whole galaxy of archaeologists, epigraphists, numismatists a lifetime to analyse and understand all that is unearthed. But here, in less than a month, these people arrive at a definite conclusion. However, this is not my jurisdiction and with apologies for the digression, let me return to my main theme.
Justice Agarwal describes the events of 1949 in a single sentence: “A mere shifting of idols from the outer courtyard to the inner courtyard”. A judge who writes thousands of pages on every conceivable issue yet on this, the most important, the central issue – 1949 – he is content with observing: “a mere shifting of idols”. That is how the crime is described and smothered in history.
Most of us are now familiar with the role of KKK Nayar in the events of 1949. On November 29, 1949 the then superintendent of police (SP), Faizabad, Kripal Singh, wrote a letter to the deputy commissioner/ district magistrate (Nayar): The SP writes to his district magistrate (DM). This letter has been referred to for the first time in Justice Khan’s judgement of September 30, 2010.
That single letter is more important, far more important, than all the Gazetteers of British India, of Oudh, Faizabad, Barabanki and Lucknow put together, all of which Justice Agarwal has cited and which historians wrestle over. On November 29, 1949, three weeks before December 23, after a visit to the spot, Kripal Singh writes to KKK Nayar that there is a plan to install the idol of Ram inside the mosque so as to turn it into a temple on the coming puranmashi (day of the full moon). He adds that the mosque was being surrounded from all sides and that bricks, lime mortar and other construction material had been kept in readiness. You can read about this in Justice Khan’s judgement. The police and the administration had advance intimation of what was brewing. But to date there has been no investigation into the matter.
It needed the high court of Allahabad, a Muslim judge, to make this letter public for the first time. Nearly a month before the act was committed, the two top officials in the district were writing to each other about the plot but for 60 years none of us even knew this – that’s 1949 for you.
With due apologies, let us return to the judgement of Justice JS Verma and with him one of the most distinguished judges of the Indian Supreme Court, a man for whom I have the highest regard, a paragon of moral virtue, uprightness and erudition, Justice MN Venkatachaliah. Justice Verma’s majority judgement on behalf of Justice Venkatachaliah, Justice GN Ray and himself in the Ismail Faruqui case – which is frequently referred to by the secular establishment – is the judgement of three Hindu judges. Forgive me for saying so but I am prepared to take the consequences of my statement. What do they say about 1949? Justice Sudhir Agarwal has very intelligently taken the phrase “shifting of idols” from Justice Verma’s judgement. Please read that judgement again in the context of Section 7, Subsection 2, of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act which was in adjudication. It was stated that pending the civil suits, status quo will be maintained as on January 7, 1993.
Which means that the Ram Lalla idol which was surreptitiously placed inside the mosque in 1949, darshan of which was allowed after the locks on the Babri Masjid were opened in 1986 and which had been temporarily moved out during the demolition and then put back inside the mosque in 1992, would continue to remain there.
Whatever you may decide, the Ram Lalla murti will remain exactly where it had been placed through a criminal, sacrilegious, irreligious act which does no credit to Hinduism or any other religion. That is not the way any religion establishes itself. That is not the way any religion fights another religion. You fight it by logic, you fight it by faith. If you like, in certain circumstances, you fight it by numbers. You do not fight it by a crime committed in the wee hours of the morning, open crime bhi nahin, not openly committed but a crime of stealth, chupke chupke.
I’ve criticised Justice SU Khan for other things but may god bless him for drawing our attention to the communication between the SP, Kripal Singh, and the DM, KKK Nayar, in 1949.
We also know the names of the two people responsible for placing the Ram Lalla idol inside the mosque. A true understanding of history requires thorough study. Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans had already been examined before I joined the Liberhan Commission in 1999 so I did not have the opportunity to cross-examine him. He passed away a few years later. He was one of the two persons who carried the idol inside. Baba Abhay Ram Das was the other. Both of them were named by the late Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, a retired judge of the Allahabad high court who filed the Ram Lalla title suit as the ‘next friend’ of Ram Lalla. A very committed man, Justice DN Agarwal joined the VHP after retirement and spent the rest of his life fighting this case. I did not have the privilege of meeting him. In his statement under Order 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure he had affirmed that Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans and Abhay Ram Das had placed the idol inside the mosque. Abhay Ram Das did not concede this but his disciple admitted it in writing. Paramhans admitted to doing so.
If after 60 years, you can look backward, if you can dig up the dead from the grave when the mosque no longer exists – one judge even says it was never a mosque, the other says it was built in 1870, not in 1528 – if the dead must be resurrected, if we must go back to the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Koran, if such important matters of religious consciousness, of spiritual consciousness, must be explored, then please, in god’s name, in Allah’s name, in Ram’s name, take a look at these facts as well. Take a look at the SP’s letter, look at Mahant Paramhans, look at Abhay Ram Das.
And although there can never be a retrospective indictment under criminal law – which is impermissible under our Constitution for the right reasons – if we could but revisit the crime committed in 1949 and, even if metaphorically or notionally, conduct some investigation, some inquiry into the incidents that took place at the time. For if 1949 had not happened, 1992 would not have followed.
I will end this argument with what Justice Verma had to say about 1949. Again, as is evident throughout the judgement, it is a question of conviction, of analysis, at the highest level of the apex court.
The contention was that this was an anti-secular reference (to the apex court) so the court should not respond. But controverting, reverting this contention, Justice Verma says no, this is not an anti-secular reference. Why? Because it is not only the Muslims; Hindus are suffering too. The Muslims had the greater right to worship in December 1949, which continued unrestricted till December 1992. However, Section 7, Subsection 2, of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act protects the restricted right to worship as established in December 1992. Thus Justice Verma essentially accepts the fait accompli of December 1949. This is the Supreme Court of India for you, in a judgement which is often cited against those who demolished the Babri Masjid. It is a tragedy of perception, a tragedy of convictions, a tragedy of fait accompli upon fait accompli.
Mobs atop the Babri Masjid: The penultimate breakdown
The Allahabad high court judgement of September 2010 is also totally silent about the demolition of the mosque in December 1992. Two writ petitions had been filed, by Mohammad Hashim and the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs, against the 1986 court order allowing the opening of the locks on the Babri Masjid. These writ petitions, kept hanging for 24 years, were also decided, by a separate order, on September 30, 2010.
Justice Agarwal said the demolition was barbaric and shameful and it appeared that the order allowing the opening of the locks was wholly illegal but since it was an interlocutory order that would be merged in the final judgement, we express no opinion. That is how he sidestepped it. And in his separate order Justice Sharma repeats five times that the subject matter is no longer there, it has been demolished, so it has no relevance; no, no, I agree with the order of 1986.
We are talking about the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Both these judges are deeply spiritual, both are devotees, as is evident from their judgements. Justice Agarwal is also extremely capable. I do not doubt the sincerity and the strength of their convictions and I cannot help complimenting Justice Agarwal for the immense labour put in by him every time I refer to the judgement and criticise him. But what is their moral fibre? What is their spiritual fibre?
This is litigation unlike any other litigation in India; this is the Babri Masjid dispute. If the Babri Masjid has any significance in your view, in anyone’s view, whether it is those who demolished it or the Muslims or the secular establishment, how can its demolition leave you totally untouched? The suit filed in 1950, the suit of 1959, the Ram Lalla suit of 1989 which was the biggest suit of all, these were filed prior to 1992; and as for what happened in 1992, what’s done is done, and that’s all? The act of December 1992 leaves no imprint on your judgement, on your thinking, on your reflection. You are intellectually untouched, you are morally untouched, you are psychologically untouched.
And therefore I have repeatedly raised the question and I raise it before you with all due respect to these two very distinguished judges of the Allahabad high court. Are they really judges who have taken an oath under a secular Constitution in an India governed by our Constitution? What substance are you made of that things like this don’t touch you? You write 5,000 pages on everything else but nothing on the demolition?
I would like to make one last point, about the Liberhan Commission report. Since I was on the Liberhan Commission from 1999 to 2008 when it turned its searchlight on all the top leaders of the sangh parivar, including Advani, Joshi and so on, I happened to cross-examine all of them. You rarely get an opportunity like this – to be engaged with an issue for over 10 years at close quarters, to examine witnesses face to face from morning to evening. It was a historic opportunity for which I shall remain ever grateful to Justice Liberhan.
His report, released and tabled in Parliament last year, is a very searching, powerful, comprehensive critique of the complicity of the state government, the state bureaucracy and the police apparatus and the wilful, organised collapse of the administration on December 6, 1992. It was a wilful organised collapse. But as far as the central government and the former prime minister, Narasimha Rao, are concerned, the report gives him a complete clean chit. I don’t want to get into that, on how he could have resorted to Articles 355 and 356. That’s a separate chapter. We are dealing with post-Allahabad; we are not dealing with post-Liberhan.
But there is one point I wish to make about 1992. Justice Liberhan said something that I wish he had not because it compromises me as his counsel and I want historians to ponder over this, to research this in all seriousness. He said the commission had no other source of information except the government. We will leave aside the report that Narasimha Rao had instructed the Uttar Pradesh governor to write. Let’s leave aside this 18-page report on which he based his entire constitutional argument.
In his report Justice Liberhan says there was also an intelligence failure (p. 859, para 144, point 2). It is a failure of the intelligence agencies, they were the eyes and ears of the central government, they did not act, they failed. So how can you blame Narasimha Rao?
Forgive me for the sharpness of my reaction, but to say that the intelligence agencies failed on December 6 is a white lie. I say this on the basis of my knowledge of one year of top-secret Intelligence Bureau reports on the Ayodhya issue by the director/ joint director/ deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau throughout 1992 right up to the last date, December 6, 1992, submitted to the prime minister’s office, to the adviser to the prime minister, to the cabinet secretariat, to the home minister, to the ministry of home affairs. That entire file was before the Liberhan Commission.
You will perhaps not find anywhere in the world, and I want to give credit where it is due, you will not find more comprehensive, swifter, more precise, more meaningful intelligence reports submitted at the highest levels of the Intelligence Bureau to the highest levels of the government of India, including the prime minister’s office. Multiple copies were sent out on a day-to-day basis, especially from November 24 to December 6, 1992. If you read these reports, you need not read anything else. Or read everything else and then read these reports. Not only can you not accuse the Intelligence Bureau or the agencies of the central government for intelligence failure. On the contrary, any and every person in a position of policymaking and decision-making in the government of India – the ministry of home affairs (the home minister, SB Chavan), the cabinet secretary, Naresh Chandra, and the principal secretary to the prime minister, AN Verma – were kept constantly updated.
And this was about Ayodhya, the most important national issue in November-December 1992. A meeting of the National Integration Council was convened. Opposition leaders, Advani, VP Singh, everyone was meeting the prime minister. It was a concern that was no longer buried in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru. The central government was being kept abreast of developments all the time.
Yet the government, the prime minister, chose to turn a blind eye to report after disturbing report from the Intelligence Bureau. Narasimha Rao’s inaction was certainly not due to intelligence failure. It was in spite of very efficient and efficacious surveillance and monitoring of the ground situation by the Intelligence Bureau.
So that then is 1949; that then is 1992. We will, of course, continue to discuss the judgement of September 30, 2010 for a long time. But secularism is not merely about the absence of disharmony, it is not merely ostensible peace or indeed the absence of rioting. Secularism is an uncompromising internal secular consciousness and perception which is appalled by the slightest intrusion into the public domain of matters which do not properly appertain.
Thank you very much.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section 1-Fait Accompli upon Fait Accompli