March 30, 2020
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Which World Does Justice Liberhan Inhabit?

His report has gone out of its way to exonerate the Narasimha Rao government of responsibility for the demolition, damaging its credibility before its official release

Which World Does Justice Liberhan Inhabit?
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Nobody has been more upfront than this scribe in condemning the BJP for the Babri Masjid demolition. Indeed the indictment of the act could have been more severe than even what Muslim leaders had demanded if the arguments advanced by this scribe had been addressed. However, judging by media reports the Liberhan Report is a piece of motivated nonsense that lowers by a few more notches the already tattered reputation of the judiciary. The Indian Express and NDTV channel have quoted from the report.

It took 17 long years for Justice Liberhan, staying in his government allotted residence, to present this report while he wrestled with the issues raised by the demolition. Eventually both the timing and the contents of the report expose its blatant motivation. Just two aspects of the report need attention to reach this conclusion.

First, Atal Behari Vajpayee has been named as one of those responsible for the demolition. From NDTV which has access to the report it would appear that no specific reason has been adduced for this except that Vajpayee as leader of the BJP bore constructive responsibility for the actions of his party. This unusually high moralistic view contrasts with the customary attitude adopted in India. It will ignite debate. But the second aspect of the report is a giveaway.

The report has gone out of its way to exonerate the Narasimha Rao government of responsibility for the demolition. According to Justice Liberhan the Union Government could not act because the state Governor did not recommend intervention. Which world does Justice Liberhan inhabit? In the prevailing political system does any Governor defy the centre’s dictate and preserve his post? The Governor normally is expected to heed the Chief Minister’s advice. The CM did not want central intervention. So the argument goes, how could the Union Government intervene without the state government’s advice? The short answer to that is that it could have done so in exactly the same way as it ordered central paramilitary forces to be stationed outside the Masjid to deal with any emergency.  The Union Government sent the central forces into the state without being invited to do so by the state government.

What happened at the time was even more revealing. The two commanders of the paramilitary forces seeing the mounting crisis wanted to intervene. They could have prevented the demolition without the loss of a single life. The District Magistrate prevented them. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s government refused to intervene. The Union Government’s deference to the state government’s refusal was touching. But it was in marked contrast to its decision to deploy near the site its paramilitary forces in the first place.

The complete report will doubtless be read very closely to make it a hot parliamentary issue. But its credibility has already been damaged before its official release.           

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