Three days before the first votes are cast in the Lok Sabha elections, a news portal claimed on Friday that a sting operation it had conducted showed that the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 was a “planned act of sabotage” and not a “spontaneous action by kar-sevaks” as many BJP and other Right-wing leaders have claimed in the last two decades.
The BJP reacted strongly to the claims by the portal, Cobrapost, with senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad calling it a “Congress sponsored sting” aimed at diverting attention from key election issues of unemployment as well as a lack of development.
Shortly before the Cobrapost press conference called to share details of the sting operation, BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath had been asked to restrain Cobrapost from airing the sting operation.
In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, Naqvi said broadcasting the sting operation during elections could disturb the peaceful environment and lead to communal tensions and violence.
The BJP has also demanded an investigation to find out who was behind the operation.
Cobrapost said it had conducted the sting operation, called ‘Operation Janmabhoomi’, over a period of two-and-a-half years and it was based on interviews of 23 junior and some senior leaders who were allegedly in the forefront of the demolition as part of a conspiracy hatched by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena.
“If we could get such damning evidence that it was a planned act of sabotage in such a little time, what was the investigating agency, the CBI, doing for all these 20-22 years?” Cobrapost editor Aniruddha Bahal told a news conference, questioning the CBI probe and also the inquiry by the Liberhan Commission.
He also offered to give the original videotapes for any investigation in the future.
However, a senior CBI officer said the sting operation had no “evidentiary value” as the agency has already completed the investigation.
“The plan was given a codename, ‘Operation Janmabhoomi’, which Cobrapost found apt to use for its undercover operation as well, and was executed with the precision of a military operation, from conducting training to putting all logistics in place and finally launching the assault, using multitudes of crowds as cover,” a Cobrapost statement said.
Among those Cobrapost interviewed were BJP leaders Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katiyar, who talked about the the events in the run-up to the demolition but did not say anything substantial.
Ram Vilas Vedanti, a former BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, claimed the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao knew about the demolition and he was being given a ‘minute-to-minute’ account by him.
Vedanti also claimed senior BJP Leader LK Advani and Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia requested the kar sevaks to come down the structure after some time but they did not listen to them.
“The blueprint of demolition was prepared by (VHP leader) Ashok Singhal,” Vedanti said.
The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said Cobrapost should be called ‘Congress post’.
He asked why the portal and those associated with it had not conducted a single sting operation against any senior Congress leader so far and why it had failed to expose anything on the 2G scam, the AgustaWestland bribery scandal and the coal blocks allotment scandal, among others.
Bahal, however, rejected allegations that he was aligned with any political party.