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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Vajpayee a ‘pseudo moderate’? A canard

The Liberhan Commission has indicted 68 persons in the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure on December 6,1992....

Written by Sudheendra Kulkarni |
November 29, 2009 2:23:41 am

The Liberhan Commission has indicted 68 persons in the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure on December 6,1992. Some of them,notably Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani,do not deserve to be in that list. However,after reading the report,I am constrained to add a 69th name: the commission itself.

The commission is guilty of self-indictment on many counts. First,it has discredited itself by taking 17 long years,and seeking as many as 48 extensions,to submit its report. The honourable retired judge of the Supreme Court could have easily completed his mandate in less than half the time. Sadly,the lure of enjoying post-retirement perks in Lutyens’ Delhi is a spreading malady among members of the higher bureaucracy and judiciary.

Second,seventeen years is sufficient time for any judge to prepare a cogent report,informed by clarity of thought and free of factual and grammatical howlers. Sadly,the Liberhan report takes a trophy for shoddy writing. One of many examples: India’s former President is referred to as “Dr Abdul Kalam Azad” on page 878.

Third,the report is riddled with self-contradiction. A glaring instance is this: the learned judge is simply unable to cast a clear judgment on the role played by Advani,who was by far the most important ideologue and leader of the BJP’s Ayodhya movement. Many crucial references to Advani are,in fact,such that they project him in a positive light,as one who never wanted the disputed structure to be demolished but was insisting on its peaceful and dignified relocation,who never uttered a single word to demonise Islam or the Muslim community throughout his rath yatra,who had no prior knowledge of the demolition plan,who actively tried to dissuade an unruly section of karsevaks from climbing onto the structure,and who was extremely sad and dejected at the vandalism that took place on December 6. Indeed,Liberhan’s discomfiture in indicting Advani is so obvious as to give rise to a strong suspicion that the commission’s report might have been significantly different had the UPA not returned to office in May 2009.

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This suspicion is further strengthened by the fourth glaring infirmity in the report. For a commission that is so verbose in condemning the BJP,and in censuring vote-bank politics (nothing wrong with that),it is eloquently and conspiratorially silent on the role of Rajiv Gandhi’s government in unlocking the gates of the Ayodhya structure in 1986. The BJP,it must be noted,was nowhere in the Ayodhya movement at the time. This action,in partial acceptance of the Hindu claim on the disputed structure,was itself meant to assuage the nationwide disquiet at the Congress government’s earlier capitulation in the Shah Bano case. Similar silence marks Rajiv Gandhi’s role in permitting the shilanyas ceremony in Ayodhya in 1989 and his launch of the Congress party’s parliamentary election campaign from Ayodhya,with a promise to establish ‘Ram Rajya’.

Liberhan has also refused to comment on the conduct,on and before December 6,of P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government. His questionable justification is that inquiring into the Centre’s role was not a part of the commission’s terms of reference! Why then did the commission ask Rao to depose before it?

The most egregious part of the Liberhan report is its indictment of former Prime Minister Vajpayee,condemning him,along with Advani,as a “pseudo-moderate”. This will no doubt please communists and Muslim extremists,but,anyone who knows Vajpayee (and also Advani) knows that nothing can be a worse travesty of truth. I suspect that this character assassination of Vajpayee by a government-appointed commission has been done deliberately to dishonour him in India’s official history,so that only members of a particular family are recognised by posterity as true nationalist leaders.

Implicating Vajpayee raises some serious questions. Does the mere fact that he gave a speech supporting the Ayodhya movement make him a “pseudo-moderate? Are we then to believe that only he/she is a moderate Hindu who opposes the BJP,and counters the demand for a Ram Mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya? I too supported the Ram Mandir movement before 1992 (when I was not in the BJP) and I continue to support it even now,when I am no longer in the BJP. There are millions of ordinary,non-communal but proud Hindus like me who feel outraged by Liberhan’s warped belief that the only correct definition of secularism is that which disregards legitimate Hindu sentiments and silently acquiesces in the negation and falsification of the long history of temple-breaking by bigoted Muslim rulers. If Islamic bigotry could blast Bamyan Buddhas in the age of television in the 21st century,are we to believe that religiously inspired temple-destruction didn’t happen in medieval India?

Let me make myself clear: The December 6 demolition was wrong. Its justification by Hindu extremists is contemptible and condemnable. The BJP is certainly guilty of being unable to distance itself fully from these extremists,and is paying the price for its inability. Nevertheless,to paint the Ayodhya movement itself as communal and fascist,as Liberhan report has done,and to besmirch the reputation of Vajpayee,one of the most respected names in the pantheon of nationalist leaders,is a shocking case of immoderation. Indictment of Vajpayee in the Liberhan report must be expunged,especially since the commission never even summoned him to appear before it.

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