The demolition of the Babri Masjid, which did the greatest harm to India’s secular ethos, has suddenly come to the fore after nearly 20 years. It indicates the intrinsic strength of the system which otherwise has been beaten because of indelible corrupt deals and the weak, faltering governance. It was such a deliberate defiance of law and morality that the destruction could not have been in oblivion for a long time.
Top BJP leaders like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, linked with the demolition, have been accused of conspiracy. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has done a meticulous job to charge them with plotting and executing the demolition. True, the CBI has doubtful credentials and its control in the hands of government makes it still more suspect. Yet its work in ferreting out the truth in certain cases cannot be minimized or rubbished.
The Babri Masjid’s demolition was not a hush-hush job. It was shown live on television networks across the country with hoary details of vandalism instigated by the Hindu crowd; the ladders and ropes used to bring down the masjid’s domes and the joy of BJP leaders over the removal of the last brick are still etched in the memory of people. Uma Bharti jumped into the laps of Joshi, celebrating the destruction of the mosque which had become over the years a structure that stood as a testimony to the country’s pluralistic philosophy.
The BJP leaders’ defence is not on the demolition of the masjid but on the timing of the CBI report. The agency may be playing politics at the instance of some ruling party members. Yet, how does this lessen the crime of those who demolished the mosque or those who enthusiastically watched the spectacle? Whether the conspiracy of Advani and seven of his party colleagues is proved in a law court or not—the Liberhan Commission said something like that in its report three years ago—is not what matters at present. The issue today is that who are the culprits? The biggest relief is that those whose hands are soiled have not got away with it. The real worry of the nation has been that the whole matter would be effaced because of the Herculean efforts by the BJP and its ally, the Shiv Sena.
Even if the conspiracy to pull down the mosque is not proved, the fact of demolition cannot be denied, nor the glee of the BJP leaders that the cameras have recorded. It is well known that before the masjid’s demolition, Advani undertook a rath yatra in northern India to prepare the ground and he, indeed, drove a wedge between the two communities, Hindus and Muslims. The killing of Muslims in the wake of demolition confirms the polarization.
In fact, the Muslims who after the partition were gradually joining the main stream began standing back and wondering whether their entity was safe. The Babri masjid’s destruction was a watershed in the relations between Hindus and Muslims and it made many Muslims hark back on the division and think that Pakistan was not such a mistake as several among them had considered. One top Muslims leader said after the demolition: I felt for the first time that I was a Muslim.
The BJP may have built its vote bank in the Hindu community or may have refurbished the image of Hindutva. And the party’s success at the polls in UP shows that. But what the party demolished for a few seats was Muslims’ implicit trust in India’s secular polity. The common man realizes, if not the BJP, the harm it caused to the country’s integrity.
Were the guilty to be punished, the loss of faith can be restored to a large extent. But the CBI’s report may well be only a storm in a tea cup. The Manmohan Singh government has neither the will nor the strength to take on the BJP which may get away with the murder of India’s secularism.
After all, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who was behind the happenings in the state in 2002, may also be getting away with all that he did. The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has exonerated him completely. What made the SIT give Modi a clean chit may come out one day as the complicity of Advani and other BJP leaders has in the case of the Babri masjid demolition. It would be too late by then, but what one can do when political considerations have scrambled the entire system.
In the case of Modi, amicus curie Raju Ramachandran strongly disagreed with a key conclusion of the SIT that IPs officer Sanjiv Bhatt was not present at a late-night meeting of top Gujarat cops held at the chief minister’s residence in the wake of the February 27, 2002 Godhara carnage. It has been Bhatt’s claim—made in an affidavit before the apex court and in statements to the SIT and the amicus—that he was present at the meeting where Modi said Hindus must be allowed to carry out retaliatory violence against Muslims.
Raju Ramachandran who has suggested that there is sufficient material to “proceed further against the Gujarat chief minister.” Ramachandran too was appointed by the Supreme Court and there is no reason why the case against Modi be closed. Ramachandran concedes that “there is no proof that Modi’s diktat was implemented by ministers or police officers who participated in the meeting. But making the statement was in itself an offence.”
It is true that Ramachandran did not investigate and relied on the documents prepared by the SIT. But this is the job which was entrusted to him by the Supreme Court. So how can it be argued that the amicus curie’s statement does not have any locus standi? The may take long because there will be day to day hearing in the lower court, but the details of Gujarat riots will be in the public domain.
The BJP should realize that the two blemishes, one about the demolition of the Babri masjid and the other about the carnage in Gujarat, will not go away until action against the culprits is taken. Quotas will not give confidence to Muslims but what they want to be assured of is that they will get justice. A pluralistic society can do this at least to prove its credentials. EOM