WHAT happened on December 6, 1992? And how tenable is the CBI's claim that the top BJP leadership was involved in the Babri Masjid demolition? Despite varying accounts, including that emanating from the BJP, the CBI says that senior leaders of the party and its allies, like the Shiv Sena, knew exactly what was going to happen.
In fact, the decision to raze the mosque was taken at a secret meeting at MP Vinay Katiyar's house in Faizabad on December 5 which was presided over by L.K. Advani himself, the CBI says. "Advani asserted that the kar seva would not only mean bhajans and kirtans but would also involve construction of the Ram temple which would be done with bricks and shovels." According to the CBI chargesheet and the September 9 court order of special judge J.P. Srivastava at Lucknow—the case goes on trial on October 17—there is circumstantial evidence of the roles played by Advani, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Kalyan Singh in bringing down the mosque. Other players who have been named in the plot are former Shiv Sena MP Moreshwar Save, VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore and a host of Bajrang Dal leaders led by Katiyar. A total of 49, almost everyone who matters in the Sangh parivar has been charged.
The CBI chargesheet is based on accounts of journalists on the spot, press reports, eyewitness accounts, public announcements and photographs. The court order traces the sequence of events leading to the demolition: "In order to create a momentum in the construction of the Shriram temple, L.K. Advani undertook a rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya during which he was received by Balasaheb Thackeray at Dadar, central Bombay, on October 1, 1990. In a speech made the same day at Panchavati in Maharashtra, Advani said the BJP, Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations were determined to construct a Ram temple at Ayodhya at any cost." That the BJP was intent on abiding by its poll promise of a Ram temple was evident in 1991 itself after Kalyan Singh became UP chief minister. "After the swearing-in ceremony on June 25, 1991, Kalyan Singh, along with Murli Manohar Joshi and other members of the UP cabinet, visited Ayodhya and offered prayers before the idol of Ram Lalla placed under the central dome of the disputed structure.... both Kalyan Singh and M.M. Joshi pledged to construct the temple there."
According to the CBI, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini activists were trained in unarmed combat, airgun shooting and rope climbing at a VHP-run institution, Yuva Shourya Prashikshan Kendra/India Welfare and Research Foundation Trust, between September 22 and October 6, 1991. On the last day, the closing ceremony was attended by the Sangh parivar top brass—amongst others by VHP general secretary Ashok Singhal, RSS leader Morepant Pingle and VHP joint secretary Giriraj Kishore where they took an oath to demolish the mosque.
To fulfil their goal, the BJP government even acquired land next to the disputed structure under the pretext of promoting tourism, even though the Supreme Court had strictly prohibited any construction on that site. So even while Kalyan Singh was assuring the National Development Council on November 2, 1991, that his government was committed to keeping intact the disputed structure, the party had other plans.
On November 19, 1992, Katiyar announced that a 1 lakh-strong suicide squad would descend on Ayodhya before December 5. "...Singhal and Pramod Mahajan met Balasaheb on November 21. On November 25, Thackeray said he will participate in the kar seva." Thackeray's message was even conveyed to a select band of Bajrang Dal men training somewhere in the Chambal ravines in Madhya Pradesh between November 30 and December 1. Before their journey to Ayodhya, the "trainees" could recoup at a flat (number 207) in Delhi's North Avenue specially allotted to them.
In late November, the CBI says " phawdas (plough), spanners, belchas (shovels) etc were sold to the local VHP office by Industrial Mechanical and Electrical stores, Faizabad." On December 4, Thackeray asked the Sena to go ahead with the demolition.
By December 6, close to three lakh people had assembled at Ayodhya. Advani rendered a fiery speech to a huge gathering near the mosque: " Aaj kar seva ka aakhri din hai. Kar sevak aaj aakhri bar kar seva karenge (today is the last day... kar sevaks will do kar seva for one last time)". The chargesheet says that when the demolition was in progress, Advani asked the people to block the national highway to stop 195 battalions of paramilitary forces on their way to Ayodhya.
According to the CBI, Advani advised Kalyan Singh not to quit till the demolition. For five hours, the state administration remained a mock spectator. The chargesheet highlights the role played by the Faizabad district magistrate R.N. Shrivastava and senior SP D.B. Rai, currently BJP MP from the constituency. The two officers, it says, looked away as kar sevaks looted public property. Later, Thackeray said he was "proud of his boys", while Kalyan Singh stated his goal had been achieved.
Legal opinion is predictably divided on the merits of the case. While the CBI counsel say they have a 'good' case, some lawyers say that the CBI premise is faulty because they have lodged just one chargesheet for 47 accused and that is likely to be rejected in a higher court of appeal. Says senior Lucknow advocate I.B. Singh: "The charges framed are quite flimsy. For instance, how do you prove the involvement of Advani and district officials on the grounds provided by the investigating agency?" Queries the CBI must answer to build the case.
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