Jawed Naqvi


Poet and wit Asraar ul Haq Majaaz returned home one night to find policemen crawling all over his ancestral house in Lucknow. Family members looked distraught. Cupboards and lofts had been ransacked. A senior police officer, torch in hand, was trying to figure out who might have done it.

Majaaz thoroughly surveyed the situation from all possible angles that a tipsy man could. Then he buttoned his crumpled sherwani, stroked the ringlets in his hair thoughtfully, and proclaimed with an air of finality: ‘Ye to kisi chor ki harkat maaloom hoti hai.’ (This looks like the work of a thief!)


The Justice Liberhan Commission report, which investigated the demolition of India’s Babri mosque on Dec 6, 1992, has not added anything new to what was axiomatically known — that it was the handiwork of Hindu fanatics. Their leaders supervised the orgy of what they thought was a key ingredient in nation building. They have not given up on that belief.


Justice Liberhan has accused virtually every group in the Hindu extremist stable — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and so forth — for the outrage. This is tantamount to tautology. He has taken 17 years to come to a conclusion that world knew as many years ago. But what was even more significant was the timing of the report. It was first leaked to a newspaper and then, after customary furor, presented to parliament.

The only available copy of the report was supposed to be lying with the home ministry apart from the one which Justice Liberhan must have kept. Who leaked it and why? The newspaper, which first published the leaked excerpts of the report, supports the idea of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) jointly capturing the political stage.


That would require the BJP, which was trounced in a series of recent elections, to be first revived and resuscitated. If that doesn’t happen the chances are that a loosely assembled left-oriented opposition would step in to occupy the space, prospects of which are anathema to India’s ruling elite. Who can forget the rejoicing we saw when the left front was forcibly evicted from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruling coalition for its opposition to a nuclear deal with the United States?


At that moment Dr Singh had called out to the BJP to help him salvage the stymied US nuclear deal. He used a quaint eulogy from a Hindu epic to describe former premier Atal Behari Vajpayee as ‘Bhishma Pitamah’, a fair-minded sagacious leader, who would join hands with the Congress to isolate the left. It is another matter that the Liberhan Commission has indicted Vajpayee as a ‘pseudo-moderate’ who was complicit in the demolition of the Babri mosque!


The fact is that Dr Singh’s brand of neo-liberal economic policies would require the opposition to be conniving in and not detracting from the course he has prescribed for India. The BJP fits the bill well. Far-fetched though it may seem, it cannot be a mere coincidence that the Babri mosque was demolished with the advent of Dr Manmohan Singh and his economic agenda in India. He had barely unveiled his first budget in July 1991 when the Ayodhya campaign swung into action. Shortly after his second budget the mosque was razed.


Is there a link between the demolition of the mosque and India’s neo-liberal agenda? Is it a coincidence that a BJP finance minister was presenting a Manmohanesque budget on Feb 28, 2002, precisely at the time when rape and mass murders were in full swing in Gujarat? And not a word was uttered about it in parliament till the speech was over.


It will be clear to anyone who cares to observe India’s political mobilisation — the one that fetches votes — that it has been outsourced to vendors of religion and assorted parochial bigots, in which the BJP and the Congress are equally culpable. On the other hand, the country’s economic policies have been handed over to a clique that takes its prescriptions from tutors located abroad.


It is of a piece with this worldview that Dr Singh’s government has described as the country’s biggest security threat the resistance put up by dispossessed tribes people against state-backed corporate plans to usurp their natural resources. The proposed military operation against the Maoist rebels is part of this scenario but its consequences look so horrific that it has evoked a strong opposition from even within the ruling clusters. The Congress government in New Delhi and the BJP government in Chattisgarh, where the resistance is the strongest, had joined hands to crush the resistance.


The Liberhan report will almost certainly shore up the BJP as a major player at a time when it was getting politically marginalised. How? By following the old prescription: set up commissions to probe injustice but not do anything about them. The Justice Shrikrishna report, which investigated the 1993 anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai, is a good example of how an objective report instead of curbing rightwing tendencies fans them because the state is not prepared to compromise on its rightwing agenda.


The Liberhan report says that the demolition of the mosque was planned, systematic, and it was the intended outcome of a climate of communal intolerance deliberately created by the RSS and its sister affiliates, including the BJP.


The report places individual culpability for the demolition on a total of 68 persons, the bulk of them drawn from the extended RSS clan. The BJP contingent includes not just Hindutva ideologues Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, but, surprisingly, also the party’s celebrated moderate face, Vajpayee.


Justice Liberhan took 16 years and six months to compile the meticulously assembled report — comprising 16 chapters including conclusions and recommendations, besides maps, an afterword and a list of witnesses.


He is unsparing of the BJP’s central leadership, calling the triumvirate of Mr Vajpayee, Mr Advani and Mr Joshi pseudo-moderates who constantly ‘protested their innocence and denounced the events of Dec 6’.

However, says the judge, ‘having analysed many hours of audio and video recordings and having observed the witnesses, [the commission] is unable to hold even these pseudo-moderates innocent of any wrongdoings’.


It is often said that the burning of the Reichstag was used as a trigger by Hitler to consolidate Nazi hold on Germany. But it cannot be said that dousing the fire of the Reichstag would have saved Germany from fascism. The Babri mosque was a non-descript mosque in an obscure region of the country. It was a ruse for a rightwing consolidation across the country. Going by the past experience of similar reports, the rightwing agenda is here to stay, and consolidate, regardless of the profound truth that Majaaz and Liberhan may have unearthed.


(Dawn Thursday, 26 Nov, 2009 )


The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

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