Still Looking For Answers In Ayodhya / Liberhan Report Published

Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh

What is happening in India is a new, historical awakening…Today, it seems to me that Indians are becoming alive to their history…Only now are the people beginning to understand that there has been a great vandalising of India…What is happening in India is a mighty creative process…the sense of history that the Hindus are now developing is a new thing.

V.S Naipaul speaking about the destruction of the Babri Mosque, The Times of India, July 18 1993

Date Of Entry: 24th November 2009:

The Leibarhan report into the circumstances that led to the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodha has been released. Over 1000 pages long, it was 16 years in the making. It can be found here, or email me for a copy of the original. Its conclusions are not unexpected, but nevertheless, it is finally a relief to confirm rumor and suspicion with facts.

The report has found that the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was carefully and systematically planned. It points out that the destruction of the mosque was the intended goals of the Sangh Parivar and its sister affiliates, including the Bharatiya Janata Party who had actively workd to create an atmosphere of communal intolerance and division in the months prior.

The report mentions 68 names that it has found explicitly complicit in the events that led to the event itself. You can see the list of names here. In the order of the names listed in the report itself, No 7 and No 29 are the names of the BJP luminaries Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. The former was the Prime Minister of India for the coalition government from 1998 to 2004. The former was the former head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Deputy Prime Minister of India from 2002 to 2004.

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Entry Date 23rd November 2009:

The Leiberhan report remains closed for the moment, but the Indian newspaper Outlook India published a series of damning videos of a speech that Atal Behari Vajpayee gave just a day before the cataclysmic events at Ayodhya. Nothing overtly incriminating was said, but so much was implied and revealed about what perhaps was known was to take place the following day. The videos are linked to here:

In the accompanying article titled The Hour of Janus the writers Sutapa Mukerjee And Saba Naqvi Bhaumik point out when speaking about the complicity of the BJP’s highest leadership:

Perhaps they thought this would lead to a great Hindu awakening. But they were shrewd enough to know this would also tie them in legal complications. So there was a Plan B, a great backup scheme. One leader, a fine parliamentarian with cross-party ties, would be spared the mud that would rise at Ayodhya. In the event of assuming high office, he would be the chosen one. As it happened, Vajpayee was eventually “chosen” by Advani, the man who led the entire Ram movement.

The Leiberhan reports remains under lock and key, though for some cynically political reasons, portions of it are being leaked. These portions speak to the participation in the Ayodhya fiasco of the BJP’s highest leadership. What gives me pause is that these ‘leaks’ are out of context and don’t help us understand the actually contents of the report. So we are best advised to proceed with caution and not point fingers without complete evidence. The cynical use of the report can place blame where it is unjust. So we wait to see its true contents.

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Entry Date July 1st 2009:

Seventeen years after the destruction of the Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya, the Liberhan Commission has presented its report, after nearly 48 requested and approved extensions, to the Indian parliament. The commission was asked to investigate the circumstances that led to the attack and demolition of Ayodhya’s previously unknown Babri mosque. Its contents are being kept a close secret – the demand for the construction of the Ramjanmabhoomi remains a volatile and sensitive issue across the country.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) political candidates repeatedly referred to their commitment to this cause and promised to construct the temple if elected. Their operatives and those of their fellow travelers of the VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and other extremist organizations, were at the center of the madness that drove thousands to the mosque and its destruction. Many died that day at the hands of mobs driven mad with power and a sense of impunity as their leaders sat nearby and remains silent. Indian photographer Prashant Panjiar was there and speaks about what he saw, in particular about the BJP leaders who were there actively participating and encouraging the violence by, as he says, their inaction to stop the carnage and ‘a complete absence of courage’.

Prem Shankar Jha writes that the Liberhan Commission Report offers us a chance to learn from the mistakes that took us to that dark moment. As he says in a piece titled A Tear In Our Fabric:

We have only to look back on those days to see how far the country has drifted back towards intolerance and violence. The Sangh Parivar is largely but not wholly responsible. Intolerance has infected Islam and Christianity as well and the bigots have often fed off each other. The Congress too must shoulder its share of the blame for mistaking appeasement for secularism —as it did when it took the locks off the Babri Masjid in 1985 and over-ruled the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case in 1986, as it has done over Taslima Nasreen’s attempt to make a home in India, and the Jammu anti-Muslim riots last summer — it has stoked the fires of intolerance.

The Liberhan Commission report has given us a chance to attain closure and make a fresh start. Instead of using it to score points off each other our political leaders would do well to invite a frank and thorough discussion of where we all went wrong in the past, and arrive at a basic consensus on where to go from here.

That the sectarian infested politics of the BJP failed in the 2009 elections to win it votes in even some of their strongest constituencies says much about where India stands today – a nation perhaps tired of the ideology of division and hate and determined to travel a path truer to its historical heritage of tolerance and acceptance.

This has very much been Ayodhya’s own experience. This small city in Uttar Pradesh captures the broader struggle in India between ideologues and purists bent on recasting the nation in sectarian mythology, and others who look around themselves and see hundreds of years of compromises and accommodations that have allowed all peoples of all faiths to thrive and live there. Ayodhya today survives because its normality, its every day, continues to confront the divisive and sectarian, its heritage and memories confront the revisionism of the fundamentalists. It is Ayodhya’s daily nothing, its insistent going about with life, that acts as an antidote to those who wish to cleave it, cleanse it and purify it.

There are fears that the Liberhan Commission Report will stoke hatred or perhaps fuel dying fires. We do not know what it contains, but we can certainly hope that whatever it reveals offers us a chance to understand ourselves, and the forces that propelled us to some of the darkest years in our modernity. We shall have to wait and see. I will update this post shortly.

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