Will justice be done?
Posted on November 26th, 2009

Momin Iftikhar

The destruction of the Babri Mosque on December 06, 1992 was a climactic event that shook the faĮՠդade of the communal harmony in India to its very core. A commission headed by Justice Liberhan was set up within 10 days of the demolition of the mosque, even as communal riots blazed across the length and breadth of India and a thoroughly traumatised and dazed Muslim community sought justice for this highly provocative act of political and religious vandalism. The wheels of justice turn slowly in India, particularly over communal persecution of Muslims, but the Liberhan Commission surpassed all conventions and precedents.

It may be instructive to note that it took the commission nearly 17 years, which included 48 extensions, to finally submit its report to the Indian PM on June 30. The commission toiled through two years of Narasimha Rao’s government, followed by five years each of Vajpayee’s and Singh’s tenures without any governmental reminders to complete the job expeditiously. Even after final compilation, the report has been collecting dust for the last five months despite Indian Muslims’ riveted attention. We would officially know its contents when formally presented in Parliament but some recently leaked portions of the report have caused ruckus among the ranks of Hindutva Brigade as well as the incumbent Congress-led government in India.

The leaked portions of the report make it apparent as to why no Indian government, across the political divide, has shown any urgency to confront what Liberhan has recorded so languidly in over a decade and a half of his musings. The report, as per leaks, indicts the former PM Vajpayee, the current leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, L. K Advani, the former BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi and a potpourri of the Sangh Parivar leading lights including Vinay Katyar, Uma Bharati and Ashok Singhal for demolition of the mosque; calling it a meticulously planned event. In addition to identifying Sangh Parivar’s top brass as leading criminals, the report also underscores the helping hand extended by the Congress government to consummate the disgraceful act. The centre, the report establishes, facilitated the buildup of the karsevaks at the site of the mosque and refused to send in troops to prevent the act of demolition as it got underway under the direct supervision of Advani and his cohorts. The bipartisan sponsorship provided by the Congress government at the centre and the BJP government under Kalian Singh in Uttar Pradesh stands established. The collusion during the act of destruction also explains the inordinate delay in compilation of the report and the snail’s pace at which the commission conducted the job in hand.

The 16th century iconic mosque was constructed by Mir Baqi, a general of Emperor Babar, at Ayodhya for use by Mughal soldiers and the local Muslim population. Even though there is no historical proof to substantiate, Hindus claim that it was constructed over the site of Ram Mandir which commemorated the birth place of Ram, a leading Hindu deity. The mosque became an early cause of communal contention even as Nehru held the reins of power. Idols were ‘unlawfully’ placed in the mosque on December 22-23, 1949 and all the UP state government could do was to lock the mosque and declare it out of bounds for Muslims. When the Ram Janambhoomi Movement was started by BJP in the early 80s, Rajiv Gandhi, again a Congress PM, ordered unlocking of the mosque in 1986; practically converting it into a mandir. His motive; to harness the Hindutva votes that had begun to raise BJP to the status of an upcoming political power on the landscape of India. Congress looked on, as the VHP unfurled an architectural plan for constructing the mandir at the site of mosque and performed the Shilas Nyas (foundation laying ceremony) in 1989 in violation of court orders. Soon thereafter Advani embarked on his rathyatras, crisscrossing the Hindi heartland to raise support for his impending assault on the mosque. The rest as they say is history.

Now that the report is soon to be presented in Parliament, with indictment of leading characters responsible for the shameful act duly on record, the question arises will the perpetrators of the crime, finally face justice? If experience is any guide, not really; assert the India watchers. Successive Indian governments have shown inclination for treating findings, conclusions and recommendations of various commissions of enquiry with casual abandon; using these as political gimmicks to create political space, gain time and to push serious issues into oblivion. In India since independence over 40 high level commissions dealing with assassinations, communal riots and civil disturbances have been instituted but recommendations by none have been translated into practical action against perpetrators of heinous crimes. Like its precursors the fate of the report hinges on the political exigencies perceived by the government, rather than any concern for the wrong done to the Muslims. The responsibility for the tragedy cuts across the party lines and Congress understands that it is as much responsible for the destruction of the mosque as the BJP.

Such an outcome should surprise no one. Congress Party has a history of indulging in loud secular rhetoric and championing the cause of the Muslims in India but at crunch time, from Nehru to Singh, the Party has retained a Hindu character. Actions speak louder than words, and in case of Babri Mosque the Congress has repeatedly shown in 1949, 1986, 1989, 1992 and in the aftermath of the demolition as to where its loyalty and commitment lie. Despite 17 long years taken by the commission to identify the culprits that tore down Babri Mosque, the chances of these criminals, belonging to the highest rung of political hierarchy of India, facing the consequences of their despicable act are very remote indeed.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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