INDIA: The government must act on the Liberhan Commission of Enquiry report — Asian Human Rights Commission

“The theory or the claim made by the leaders of the movements or the icons, from political or social organisations, does not carry conviction to conclude that the demolition that was carried out by the karsevaks [soldiers] spontaneously out of sheer anger or emotions. The mode of assault, the small number of karsewaks who carried out the demolition and the constraints of the space to accommodate the number of people, veiling of the identity of the karsewaks entering the domes, the removal of the idols and the cashbox from under the dome and the subsequent reinstallation in the makeshift temple, availability of instruments and material for demolition and for the swift construction of the makeshift temple categorically leads to the conclusion and finding that the demolition was carried out with great painstaking preparation and planning. The involvement of quite a number of karsewaks for carrying out the demolition ordinarily could not had been kept secret from people like the Chief Minister who admittedly has a number of sources of information; or from K.S. Sudershan who was heading the RSS while their swyamsewaks [volunteers] were detailed on the spots for each and every act required to be carried out, or local leaders like Vinay Katiyar or Ashok Singhal or the persons present at the spot prior to 6 December, 1992.”

Para 158.10 Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Enquiry

These are the words with which Justice Liberhan Commission has indicted those responsible for the demolition of the Babri Mosque, a watershed event in the history of independent India. This is the event which altered the social and communal relations in the country, not only in its immediate aftermath but, as it appears, changed it forever. The event also exposed the fault lines running across the axis of communal identities in the Indian society and endangering, in the process, the secular landscape of the country envisaged and guaranteed by its constitution.

Though the submission of the report to the Government of India in July and its tabling in the Parliament this week is definitely a step forward in the struggle to build a society that values justice, it has to be noted that the report has come too late. As it is, justice delayed is justice denied and a delay of 17 years certainly tantamount to the denial of justice.

The Commission was constituted to probe into the “sequence of events leading, and all facts and circumstances relating to, the occurrences at Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex on 6 December, 1992“. The report comes a full 17 years after the event and the government consumed another six months in tabling it in the Parliament.

The report, in all, indicts 68 persons with individual culpability, the bulk of them drawn from the rightwing Hindutva organisations, referred to generally as the ‘Sangh Parivar’ comprising mainly of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Commission has indicted Mr. Murali Manmohar Joshi, Ms. Uma Bharti, late Ms. Vijayraje Scindia, Mr. Vinay Katiyar, Mr. Kalraj Mishra, the VHP leaders Mr. Ashok Singhal, Mr. Praveen Togadia, Mr. Paramhans Ram Chander Das, Mr. Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Mr. Acharya Giriraj Kishore. Those from the RSS include Mr. H.V. Sheshadri, Mr. K.S. Sudershan, Mr. Govindacharya, Mr. Kushabhau Thackray and Prof. Rajinder Singh alias Rajju Bhaiyya.

The report has also identified bureaucrats like the then Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh state Mr. S.V.M Tripathi, Inspector General (Security) Mr. A.K. Saran, Chief Secretary of UP Mr. V.K. Saxena, Principal Secretary (Home) Mr. Prabhat Kumar, Commissioner of Faizabad Division Mr. S.P. Gaur, Deputy Inspector General of Police Mr. U.P. Bajpai, Senior Superintendent of Police Mr. D.B. Rai, Additional Superintendent of Police Mr. Akhilesh Mehrotra, District Magistrate Mr. R.N. Shrivastava and Tourism Secretary Mr. Ashok Sinha for lapses in protecting the disputed structure.

The report identifies the role of the BJP, the political arm of the Sangh Parivar, as the one that played the most central role in the ‘movement’ that culminated in the demolition of the mosque. The Commission observes in its conclusion “…the rallies and Yatras were aimed at the emotionally charged common man and to make him a part of the demand for the temple at Ayodhya. These measures did not succeed until the BJP joined in.”

Justice Liberhan came down heavily on Mr. Kalyan Singh, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time holding him particularly responsible for the demolition, observing that “…Kalyan Singh, his Ministers and his hand-picked bureaucrats created man-made and cataclysmic circumstances which could result in no consequences other than the demolition of the disputed structure…[t]hey denuded the state of every legal, moral and statutory restraint and wilfully enabled and facilitated the wanton destruction and the ensuing anarchy.”

The report does not leave other leaders of the RSS and its affiliates go scot-free either. Rather, the report goes on to pinpoint the complicity of leaders like Mr. Atal Bihari Bajpai, who later became the Prime Minister of India in bringing out the demolition. Justice Liberhan says, “It cannot be assumed even for a moment that Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee or Mr. M.M. Joshi did not know the designs of the Sangh Parivar. Even though these leaders were deemed and used by the Parivar … to reassure the cautious masses, they were [in fact] party to the decisions which had been taken.” …”[t]hey have violated the trust of the people…[t]here can be no greater betrayal or crime in a democracy and this Commission has no hesitation in condemning these pseudo-moderates for their sins of omission.”

A democracy, of course, cannot see a betrayal bigger than this by the very people who have taken an oath to defend it. Despite being a step forward, the report raises several serious concerns.

First, there is not yet any investigation and prosecution against those who are responsible for this cataclysmic event. Second, the perpetrators have reaped the dividends from their act. A quick glance at the careers of those indicted by the Commission, post the demolition reveals this stark fact. The SSP of Faizabad, Rai, contested and got elected as a BJP candidate to the Indian Parliament from Sultanpur constituency. The BJP government promoted the DGP, Tripathi, to become the Director General of the Central Reserve Force. The Home Secretary Prabhat Kumar became a Cabinet Secretary of the union government under the Prime Ministership of Mr. A.B. Vajpayee. The government rewarded him further by appointing him the Governor of a newly formed state, Jharkhand. The government posted Inspector General Saran in Uttarakhand and soon promoted him as the DGP.

Justice should not only be done but also must appear to be done and the actions that the government take following the findings in the report must prove this. The Asian Human Rights Commission expects that the Liberhan Commission report will not be filed in the bureaucratic deepfreezes where Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry report is stored for the past decade. The government appointed the Srikrishna Commission to enquire into the notorious Mumbai riots of 1992-93.

And most importantly, the government must provide support to the victims of the orchestrated communal violence that followed after the demolition of the Mosque. The report is also expected to serve the purpose of expediting the pending litigation concerning the reconstruction of the Mosque.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-232-2009
Countries : India,