May 13, 2009 12:02:52 am
The former BJP leader Kalyan Singh joining hands with Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh has again revived the Babri Masjid demolition issue. Unfortunately,the focus of the current debate is only on fixing responsibility for what happened on December 6,1992. It ignores the political,administrative and judicial responsibility for the developments,which had their origin in 22-23 December 1949 when the idols were installed in the Masjid under the administration of the Congress Chief Minister G.B. Pant. It needs to be recalled that even Sardar Patel,in his letter of 9 January 1950 addressed to G.B. Pant,had characterised the incidents in Ayodhya as unilateral action based on an attitude of aggression or coercion. However,G.B. Pant paid no heed to his exhortation to resolve the issue peacefully with the willing consent of the Muslim community.
Nehru,who was deeply disturbed over the incident,offered to go to Ayodhya on Feb 5,but was prevented by Pants false assurance a few days later that soon,the idols would be removed peacefully. But instead,the act of aggression was given the fig leaf of legal protection by the courts attachment order turning a functioning mosque into a temple,though with limited rights of worship,which was subsequently turned into a full-fledged temple by opening of the gates in 1986 under a secular Congress prime minister and chief minister in UP.
About the course of law,the BJPs White Paper on Ayodhya and the Rama Temple (1994) made the following observations: The law could not help the Hindus for more than 60 years,from 1885 to 1949,but when they physically occupied the structure after the idols of Sri Rama appeared on December 22-23,1949,the same law okayed it,and the same law enforcing court the district court in 1950 and later in 1955 the high court granted to the Hindus the right to worship and injuncted against removing the idols.
In his deposition before the Liberahan Commission,L.K. Advani admitted that the BJP made a late entry into the political movement for Rama temple,when he realised its immense potential for consolidation of Hindu nationalism. It is this competitive championing of Hindu nationalism between the Congress and the BJP which was aggravated in1985,as the Congress felt the need to appease Hindu sentiments in the wake of the Shah Bano case. Competition over Ayodhya has had many phases. It was a project of collusion under VHP-Buta Singh agreement of September 27,1989 for Shilanyas,although Buta Singh tried his best to play it both ways.
Even the sequence of events in November-December 1992 clearly demonstrate deliberate inaction amounting to collusion on the part of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Manmohan Singh has perhaps conveniently forgotten that it took a full forty eight hours after the demolition of the Masjid and rebuilding of the makeshift temple,before article 356 was invoked. What emerges from this narrative is the fact that Kalyan Singh is not the only sinner to be stoned. Senior leaders within the Congress from G.B Pant to Narasimha Rao are no less to blame.
The narrative should also admit that in the whole process,the higher judiciary did not cover itself with glory. However,it is the inadequacies of the justice delivery system,resulting in periodic massacres and pogroms,which is simply astounding. Will India continue to claim being the largest democracy in the world without the rule of law,and a secular state without secular justice? The role of the ruling Congress party and the higher judiciary encourages impunity in those who spread communal violence,as can be seen from the fate of the PIL filed by J.B. DSouza and others asking that Bal Thackeray be prosecuted for his inflammatory writings when Mumbai was burning in the aftermath of the Babri demolition. In a society like India where Hindu-Muslim conflicts over issues like cow slaughter,conversion,Vande Mataram,and mandir-masjid have been exploited for more than a century and a half for political mobilisation,impartial law-enforcement is a necessary but insufficient condition for durable inter-community peace.
Resolving conflicts through conciliation and dialogue is also critical,which requires constituting a statutory empowered independent Community Relations Commission (CRC),which I recommended in the report that I wrote on behalf of the NCM Committee headed by Justice Tarkunde in 1999. The CRC,as part of a larger constitutional national peace council,should work in liaison with civil society groups at local,regional and national levels. It will be equipped with powers and means to prevent and punish hate speech under applicable laws like existing Sections 153A and B,295,505,and others to be enacted. It will also promote structured dialogue over issues causing conflicts,and get agreements implemented.
The writer is a former professor at Aligarh Muslim University.
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