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Document   January 2001

Babri Demolition: A Pre–Planned Act

Since December 6, 2000 when prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee cynically re-opened the Ayodhya issue declaring that ‘the Ramjanmabhoomi movement was the outcome of national sentiment’ much has been said and written about the motives and actions of major players from the sangh combine at the time, in preparation for the act of demolition, especially the roles of present Union ministers, Lal Krishna Advani, and his colleagues Uma Bharati and Murli Manohar Joshi. 
Interestingly, many of the BJP leaders who face criminal charges pertaining to the demolition of the Babri Masjid are now pretending that they did all within their power to prevent the mosque’s demolition. The prime example of this is Uma Bharati, who recently deposed before the officially-appointed Liberhan Commission. While the Liberhan Commission has yet to complete its investigations and present its report, the findings of a Citizens’ Tribunal on Ayodhya, head  by a team of three prominent retired judges is quite revealing.
Immediately after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, some individuals and groups of citizens concerned with the protection of human rights and the cherished objectives of our Constitution, decided to set up a Citizens’ Tribunal to inquire into the events leading to the demolition and its aftermath. This decision was prompted by their realisation of the futility of unearthing the truth and identifying the guilty from the proceedings of the official inquiry body.
Three eminent ex-judges were approached who readily agreed to head a Citizens’ Tribunal. To quote the three (Justices O. Chinnappa Reddy, DA Desai and DS Tewatia): “Though we have no legal authority…we do have moral authority. We do not derive our authority from the State, but we derive our authority from all those people who have abiding faith in democracy, human rights and secularism.”
They appointed a Commission of Inquiry, which visited Ayodhya and Faizabad in February 1993, examined witnesses, met and discussed with various professionals, government officials, religious leaders and others, and came out with a report. Following this there were sittings and more submissions in Delhi in July 1993.
In their recommendations the judges demanded:
¨ a total ban on all political parties subscribing to a communal credo directly or indirectly;
¨ Strong, stringent and swift action…against all political parties identified as communal parties.
We reproduce excerpts from the findings of the Citizen’s Tribunal on Ayodhya to refresh public memory on the issue.

The form of Kar seva 
By late Novem ber 1992 the  political au thorities has started showing symptoms of failure and the courts seemed to provide an escape route. There were pending contempt cases for violation of court orders during the July 1992 kar seva. The Supreme Court, therefore, asked the UP government on November 24, 1992 to specify steps on compliance of orders, namely, prohibiting “any construction” and “any permanent construction” on 2.77 acres of land. 
The Prime Minister is reported to have picked on this straw immediately on November 26, 1992, when he told the Congress parliamentary party, “no one can do kar seva now to build a temple on the proposed plot in Ayodhya since there is a stay order in force”. He reportedly termed the planned kar seva ‘illegal’ and declared the government’s commitment to implement the Supreme Court orders and to uphold the Constitution. The UP government refused, in a discussion in the state legislature, to be pinned down regarding the form of the kar seva.
The UP counsel in the Supreme Court, KK Venugopal, assured the court that the state government would not allow the ground situation in Ayodhya to build up to a situation which resulted in violation of court orders. However, to a suggestion by the attorney general that extensive preparations were going on for kar seva, the court announced: “Preparation is not an offence. Only on our fullest satisfaction before us that state government has failed in its duty will we pass any orders”. The VHP-BJP leaders showed apparent reasonableness in stating that kar seva would not involve any violation of court orders. 
On November 28, 1992, recitations from the Gita were started on the disputed site even before the court passed its final orders on kar seva. The court asked the UP government to file an affidavit after consultation with the VHP and to provide further guarantees that construction materials and machinery would not be kept near the disputed site. The submission of the attorney general on the ground realities cited in the affidavit on kar seva and the deteriorating situation was brushed aside. 
So, on November 29, 1992, the Supreme Court finally passed its order on the carrying out of ‘symbolic kar seva’ and provided for its own observer to monitor the situation in Ayodhya and report on the same. The separation of the judiciary and executive moved a stage further. A division, in the appreciation of the ground realities, between the local administration and the judicial observer was created.
The VHP took the UP government assurances as a tactical move. The Bajrang Dal chief was more emphatic: “Supreme Court ruling can apply to an individual but not to an entire society.” He stated on November 29, itself that kar seva was not just bhajans but temple construction also. LK Advani and MM Joshi were to take part in the planned kar seva. 
A BJP press release on the same day described the movement of building a temple at Ayodhya as “not the culmination but the commencement of national reassertion” and the proposed presence of these national leaders as “symbols of the party’s commitment to national reassertion”. In Ayodhya, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das stated that “a section of the Janmabhoomi movement is so committed to the Hindu cause that if they decide to take matters into their own hands even the saints would be powerless to stop them”…
The confusion regarding the contents of the kar seva continued until December 6, 1992. Thus, the main task of main task of mobilising the kar seva could be carried out without any problem. LK Advani is reported to have launched his march to Ayodhya from Varanasi with the announcement that kar seva would not be limited to ‘bhajans and kirtans’. By the time he reached Ayodhya, he was reported to have said firmly: “We will really construct the temple and not confine ourselves to symbolic kar seva of bhajans and kirtans.
“MM Joshi was more forthcoming. He asserted that the “Court can define and interpret the constitution and the law but not the nature and the format of the kar seva”, and that during the kar seva “everything, right from puja to construction can be done”. The sadhus, sants, on December 5, told the huge gathering of kar sevaks that the kar seva would begin at 12.15 p.m. on the next day, there would be no construction on the 2.77 acres of disputed land, and that they should follow the instructions of the sadhus in regard to modalities of kar seva. The VHP general secretary is reported to have stated, “The construction will be carried out but at its own pace and in conjunction with the advice of experts, not on the court’s instructions”.
The kar sevaks were given a clear message that the court order was not sacrosanct. There need not be any construction on 2.77 acres of disputed land but elsewhere. It was not necessary to have construction material and equipment at or near the site; transportation from places of storage nearby would not be a problem. The court observer’s report was confined to the area of dispute and activities there, and therefore monitoring would not interfere with any of the arrangements planned. In any case, the court had already ruled that preparation alone was no offence.

Fate of the Structure
The Puri Sankaracharya was not the only one who demanded that it should be demolished. This was implicit in the repeated efforts of chief minister, Kalyan Singh; to persuade Muslims to agree to relocate the mosque outside the boundaries defined by the VHP. By November 20, Vinay Katiyar announced that there was “no guarantee for the safety of the existing structure”. While RSS joint secretary, Rajendra Singh, promised that the masjid would not be damaged, general secretary HV Seshadri announced that “pre-construction work” involving levelling of land, cleaning and watering outside the disputed are would be carried out. 
LK Advani is reported to have said in Varanasi: “We do not want to destroy any masjid and make a mandir. There was never a masjid at Ramjanmabhoomi site”. Simultaneously, MM Joshi was noting unambiguously that the proposed construction of Ram temple was impossible without demolishing the Babri Masjid.
The implications of such stances on the local situation in Ayodhya were to create a real risk to the old structure. The home ministry was aware of this risk, as is abundantly clear from the guarded language of the letter to the chief minister of UP on December 5 which was also leaked to the press. He went to the extent of stating: “The possibility of some mischievous elements using explosive to damage the Ramjanmabhoomi Babri Masjid structure cannot be ruled out”. 
The local police were apprehending construction at the site of the Babri Masjid from November 28 onwards. On December 2, it was noted that Shiv Sainiks along with others could be expected to destroy the disputed structure. On December 3 one Manas Maharathi Tyagi is reported to have told the kar sevaks that the disputed structure should be destroyed with a blow (jhatka). In the public meeting on December 5, resentment was expressed about calling the place of rest of “Ram Lalla” a Masjid, with the assertion that this would be tolerated no longer. Slogans calling for demolition of the Masjid were heard in the night of December 5-6, 1992.

Speeches on December 5
Inflammatory speeches were made at the mass meeting at Ram Katha Kunj on the afternoon of December 5, at which major leaders of the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, BJP, and Shiv Sena were present. Those present included, Ashok Singhal, Ramchandra Paramhans, Swami Chinmayanand,Swami Vasudevanand,Mahant Avaidyanath, Acharya Vamdev, Sadhvi Rithambara, Acharya Dharmendra and Vinay Katiyar, among others. 
Acharya Dharmendra, a key VHP leader and reportedly a major organiser of the events the next day, repeatedly stated that they would obey the commands of the sants which they considered the true law, and break the law of the courts. He had, from December 3 onwards, been saying “chashmen ke number badal lo, dekh lo mandir vahin banega”. (Change your spectacles, the [Ram] temple will be built at that very site [where the masjid was located]).
Both Dharmendra and Swami Ramchandra Paramhans said at the conclusion of the Gita path (recital from the Bhagvad Gita) that: “Kurukshetra ki ladai prarambh hogi, mandir banega, ladai jab tak chalegi, Hindu Rashtra banega”. (The battle of Kurukshetra [a reference to the epic struggle between good and evil as told in the Mahabharata] will begin, the temple will be made, and the battle will continue until the establishment of Hindu Rashtra). Dharmendra clarified that the battle would begin the following morning, which was the anniversary of the original battle according to tradition.

Attacks on journalists
From around December 3, journalists were being threatened. Those photographing the demolition rehearsal on December 5 were threatened and made to leave. At 5.15 p.m. Ashok Singhal, speaking at the mass meeting at Ram Katha Kunj, wrongly accused the BBC of misreporting in the previous day’s broadcast that “a lathi-charge had broken out”. This enraged the kar sevaks, thirty of whom later attacked a German TV crew, injuring them and damaging their equipment.
On the morning of December 6, mediapersons, all of whom had been given badges by the VHP, were systematically, though perhaps selectively, attacked and their equipment destroyed. The photographers who were video-recording for the VHP were not attacked. These attacks were therefore not indiscriminate, and were apparently directed at destroying evidence. 
About a hundred mediapersons, in a statement in Ayodhya the next day, blamed the RSS-VHP-BJP for these incidents, holding Ashok Singhal squarely responsible for his anti-media speeches, and regretted that HV Seshadri and LK Advani had not tried to stop the attackers. Vijaya Raje Scindia, when stopped outside her hotel in Ayodhya by protesting mediapersons, allegedly retorted: “You deserve it”. She later denied the statement. All evidence therefore suggests that this attack on the press was pre-planned and co-ordinated.
Crucial meetings of Sangh combine
Late on the evening of December 5, there was a meeting at Digambar Akhara in Ayodhya, where informants claim, HV Seshadri, Vinay Katiyar and Ashok Singhal, among others, were present. LK Advani arrived at night, pre-poning his arrival from 1.00 p.m. on December 6, and joined this meeting. Another meeting was held in Katiyar’s residence from about 8.00 a.m. on December 6, where it is reported that Advani, Singhal, KS Sudarshan (RSS joint secretary), Seshadri and Moreshwar Save (Shiv Sena leader) were present. Pramod Mahajan, BJP MP, joined them around 10.00 a.m.

Demolition of the Masjid
The Sangh combine had already created the atmosphere and the conditions for the demolition. Significantly, the first attempts to break past the cordon of RSS volunteers and the police occurred between 10.00-10.30 a.m. on December 6, when Advani and Joshi arrived on the scene. No serious effort was made by any of the major leaders to stop the demolition.
The systematic way in which the Babri Masjid was demolished points to prior planning and training. The old mosque’s structure was not weak. Because of damages caused to it when it was attacked in 1934, the central dome and parts of the walls had been repaired at that time using cement, etc. Though the claim that there was an explosion has not received any confirmation, all eyewitness reports indicate a purposive destruction. 
Only about 2,000 of the kar sevaks participated in the actual demolition. A few hundred were the main workers. The initial successful assault was by kar sevaks who had distinctive yellow headbands. According to local police reports, and all available video records, kar sevaks attacked the Babri Masjid simultaneously from more than one direction and in more than one group. The entire operation was therefore marked by a careful division of labour.
The Babri Masjid was not the only shrine destroyed. The Ram Chabootra where Hindus had worshipped for centuries, as well as the Sita Rasoi (more recently also called Kaushalya Rasoi) were also destroyed. The destruction of the disputed structure was, therefore, not the only instance of demolition of a shrine at the site by the Sangh combine.
The manner in which injured kar sevaks were taken away, and ambulances provided, with access to the hospital despite roadblocks, again point to pre-planning. The way in which the routes that the central forces would have to take to get to the site were blocked, with rubble, burning tyres and other barricades, shows that it could not have been spontaneous. The human wall formed near Saket degree college which stopped the RAF contingent on the afternoon of December 6, was also, informants have testified, pre-meditated. The principal of the college was an active BJP sympathiser who had earlier expelled anti-BJP student activists.
The call by Singhal and others, to kar sevaks to come down from the domes of the masjid, may have been a proforma effort to indicate claim of willingness to honour Supreme Court orders. But it could also have been an attempt to avoid injuries to the latter when the domes collapsed. Singhal was seen signalling some kar sevaks to move towards the mosque. While the demolition was on, Advani reportedly warned the police not to “touch kar sevaks or use force”. 
In the early afternoon, around 2.30 p.m., he called upon the kar sevaks to block all entry points to the complex so that central troops could not enter. SC Dixit, vice-president of the VHP, congratulated the police forces for their “restraint” while the demolition was going on. Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Rithambara shouted inflammatory slogans, instigating kar sevaks against Muslims.
The attitude of these senior leaders was clear encouragement to the kar sevaks to launch a pogrom against the Muslim community which was already terrified by what some of its members had seen of the demolition, and many had heard over the public address systems. Even, if, for the sake of argument, the widespread allegations about specific communal slogans and speeches by prominent leaders are exaggerated and untrue, the consistent support by Sangh combine leaders to the depredations of the kar sevaks which had been going on since at least December 1 was tantamount to encouraging their actions.
If that is indeed the case, and this would require further investigation, all these leaders are guilty not only of instigating communal passions, but also of aiding and abetting acts of murder, attempt to murder, assault, rioting, looting and arson.  

(Citizen’s Tribunal on Ayodhya published by its Secretariat, K-14, Green Park Extension, New Delhi – 110016).
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