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DECEMBER 6, 1992...

Post-Babri, trial and error

A lot of time was wasted in getting the cases clubbed. The Supreme Court has also faulted the Allahabad High Court for dropping the conspiracy charge23 Apr 2017 | 12:31 AM[ + read story ]

Was it yesterday? How do we reconcile our present with what happened 25 years ago: a religious structure was pulled down in collusion with those who were bound by law to protect it? And it was in the name of Ram, in the land that means where no conflict takes place: Ayodhya. The Supreme Court recently restored criminal conspiracy charge against BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti in the case and clubbed the trial pending against VIPs and karsevaks. The Tribune takes a wider look at the case that has a direct impact on the country’s secular character

In her book $uperHubs management consultant Sandra Navidi describes how the elite decision-makers — multinational CEOs, fund managers and policymakers — form networks to use financial systems to their advantage. The way BJP veterans LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyana Singh and others have been allowed to escape trial in the case of conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid at Ayodhya for 25 years suggests a similar networking at the political level. Barring the conviction of a Chautala here or a Lalu Prasad there, the political class has largely emerged unscathed despite the country witnessing mass murders, communal riots and corruption at various levels. This cannot be possible without some sort of collusion and understanding. The collective targeting of Arvind Kejriwal by traditional politicians and partisan media points to a nexus at work. Attacking the networking of politics and business, Kejriwal comes up as an outsider, a possible disrupter of this comfortable political arrangement. 

Then how come LK Advani and others are on trial now? Perhaps they had outlived their political utility. Already they had been consigned to political irrelevance. Perhaps the powers-that-be did not anticipate a routine CBI petition producing such an electrifying outcome, until it was too late to undo the damage. Those pretending to be shocked at the 25-year delay in the trial need to be reminded of the miscarriage of justice in the mass killings of Sikhs in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Leaders of both the Congress and the BJP had blood on their hand. Yet the law has failed to reach them. Academic researchers need to find out whether and how politicians at the helm of successive governments at the Central and state levels joined hands to subvert the justice system.

Explaining the delay in the Babri conspiracy case, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman has said: “The accused persons have not been brought to book largely because of the conduct of the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution of the aforesaid alleged offenders in a joint trial, and because technical defects which were easily curable … were not cured by the state government.”

So the court blames the CBI and the UP government. Careful planning was apparently at work to bail out the political leaders. The mosque demolition and its conspiracy constituted one criminal offence and yet two separate FIRs were registered - one against nameless karsevaks who brought down the masjid and the other against political leaders who instigated the karsevaks. Some 1,50,000 of them were allowed to gather there on that day by the BJP government headed by Kalyan Singh which had given a commitment to the Supreme Court to protect the disputed structure. A lot of time was wasted in getting the cases clubbed. The Supreme Court has also faulted the Allahabad High Court for dropping the conspiracy charge.

Advani has denied any role in the mosque destruction. He has described the Babri demolition as “the saddest day of my life”. However, the MS Liberhan commission that probed the 1992 events has described Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani as “pseudo-moderates” and indicted both. Formed on December 16, 1992, the commission took 48 extensions and 17 years to prepare its report which was tabled in Parliament in November 2009. It held culpable 68 persons, including Vajpayee, Advani, MM Joshi and Kalyan Singh. It accused the RSS of being the “chief architect of the demolition”. 

The delay raises uncomfortable questions and strengthens the collusion charge. Why did the Congress government not act on the Liberhan commission’s findings or push the CBI to expedite the prosecution? Why did the subsequent UP governments led by Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav not rectify the lacuna in the case or act to the satisfaction of the courts?

A whole new generation has grown post-Babri demolition on December 6, 1992. So has communal politics. If today India is a fertile ground for fomenting communal trouble in the name of the cow, love jihad or Bharat Mata, Advani and Co’s contribution cannot be underestimated. He undertook the historic Rath Yatra from the Somnath temple in Gujarat on September 25, 1990, to Ayodhya, which sparked 166 riots countrywide. Post-Babri demolition, riots killed 2,000 people. The serial blasts in Bombay claimed 250 lives; 59 karsevaks died in the Godhra train carnage and some 1,000 deaths happened in the Gujarat massacre. Since the play of politics of polarization continues, it is apparent no lessons have been drawn from the communal riots and killings in the past.

What is the case?

There are two cases. One at Lucknow (involving LK Advani and others). The second is at Rae Bareilly (against karsevaks) 

Ordering the clubbing of cases, the SC said...

  • Let justice be done though the heavens fall. In the present case, crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution of India have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago. The accused have not been brought to book largely because the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution and because of technical defects which were easily curable. The examination of witnesses has been followed in the breach. A number of adjournments were taken. Another disturbing feature is the frequent transfer of the Special Judge at Rae Bareilly, due to which the matter was not taken up. 
  • The SC further observed: The Sessions Court will take up all the matters on a day-to-day basis...There shall be no transfer of the Judge until the entire trial concludes and judgment delivered within two years.

Status of the two cases

Rae Bareilly (against Advani & others): 57 witnesses examined while 105 await turn in court. 

Lucknow: 195 witnesses examined, 800 yet to testify.

Trial against 13. Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh has constitutional protection, while 7 others are dead

The 13... 

LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, CR Bansal, Sadhvi Ritambhara, RV Vedanti, Jagdish Muni Maharaj, BL Sharma, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar. 

The immunity so far

Trial won't take place against  Kalyan Singh (Governor of Rajasthan), who was the CM when the demolition took place

The dead

  • Bal Thackeray
  • Acharya Giriraj Kishore
  • Moreshwar Save
  • Mahant Avaidhynath
  • Paramhans Ram Chandra Das
  • Ashok Singhal
  • Nritya Gopal Das

Through history and beliefs

Year 1300?

Some claim the Babri Masjid was built then and Babur renovated it 200 years later

1528-29

Most assert it was built 200 years later on a hillock which some say was called Ram Kot

The Masjid was known for its amazing acoustics system and remained cool due to arches, vaults and domes.

It is not mentioned in both the Baburnama and Tulsi Das’ Ramcharitmanas written two decades after its plausible date of construction

Claims of a temple having been at the site began springing up 200 years later

1855

Coinciding with the British’s divide-and-rule policy, tensions prevailed for 30 years

1885

Mahant of Ram Chabootra, a makeshift arrangement where prayers were made, files a civil suit

Both suit and appeal dismissed and judge ordered status quo as it was too late to make amends

1934

British reconstruct a dome damaged in rioting

1946

A British judge ruled that the mosque belonged to the Sunnis and even the Shias had no claim over it

Night of Dec 23, 1949

At the end of a nine-day jagrata, some people placed the idols of Ram and Sita inside the mosque

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Patel ordered the removal of the idols, but local officials declined fearing a law and order problem

Before the orders could be enforced, civil suits were filed by all sides

1984

Vishwa Hindu Parishad initiates a rath yatra to ‘liberate’ all mosques built after razing temples but with a special focus on Babri Masjid. The yatra fails to gather momentum

1986

Another suit filed for the right to pray before the idols

1986-89

Rajiv Gandhi government orders opening of locks and subsequently gives the green light for a foundation-laying ceremony

1989-92

Communal tensions peak as LK Advani embarks on a rath yatra that leaves violence and bloodshed in its wake

1992

Despite then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s (now Governor of Rajajsthan) assurance to the Supreme Court that volunteers will only gather around the Masjid, it is demolished in the presence of visibly exulting BJP leaders 

LK Advani, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi and many others 

Liberhans Commission appointed to probe sequence of events blames 68 leaders 

2003

Archaeological Survey of India confirms there were earlier structures beneath the Masjid including a temple but also indicates that there was other human activity too indicating that there could be Buddhist or Jain structures 

2010

Allahabad High Court orders a three-way division of land between two Hindu sects and the Sunni Waqf Board

2011

CBI approaches SC against Allahabad HC order

2013

CBI urges early hearing

2017 March

SC hearings accelerated 

April 19, 2017

Supreme Court restores criminal conspiracy (in demolition of Babri Masjid) against BJP leaders Advani, Uma Bharti and MM Joshi

Post-Babri,  trial and  errorCRIME & NO PUNISHMENT YET: The karsevaks tear down the Babri Masjid. The UP government under Kalyan Singh had promised that no harm would be caused to the structure. The demolition led to communal riots across the country resulting in the death of hundreds of people. Photos: AFP, PTI
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