Babri demolition report likely before election

February 6th, 2009 - 5:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) Seventeen years since it was formed to probe the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, the Liberhan Commission - one of the longest running inquiry panels costing the government over Rs.7 million - is hopeful of submitting its report before March 31, just before the general elections.”I am in the right direction. Things are on track and since you have been patient all this while, why don’t you cooperate a little longer. I have time till March 31. So pray to god it is over soon,” Justice (Retd) M.S. Liberhan told IANS from Chandigarh.

The 70-year-old judge, who is currently writing up his report on the sequence of events leading to the razing of the Babri mosque by Hindu zealots Dec 6, 1992, was, however, non-committal on whether his report would come down heavily on leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and hardline Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Besides identifying those who played a role in the destruction of the 16th century mosque, the commission is also expected to state why and how the demolition happened.

“I will not be able to tell you that. Wait for it to come out as I have to apply my mind. But what I would like to say is since there is considerable interest in this commission, especially because it has taken so long, I will be judged closely by the media,” said Liberhan. The commission is currently on its 47th extension.

His remark assumes significance especially after the commission’s lawyer, Anupam Gupta, dissociated himself from the one-man panel after eight years because of differences with Liberhan.

Gupta’s relations with the judge had reportedly come under strain midway during the examination of L.K. Advani when the BJP leader was home minister. Advani lost his cool and lodged a protest with Liberhan who in turn asked Gupta to tone down his cross-examination.

Though Gupta persisted, being the commission’s lawyer, he gradually began to lean away from the panel in 2007 and has not spoken to the judge in the last six months.

“I am absolutely clueless about the possible content of the report or even its timing. However, one thing I am certain of is history will not forgive Justice Liberhan if after the mountain of labour put over all these years the commission finally produces a mouse!” Gupta told IANS.

“Despite the lapse of time, the enormity of the event must not be forgotten.”

The commission was appointed by former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao of the Congress two weeks after the demolition to ward off criticism against his government for having failed to protect the mosque.

In August 2005, the commission finished hearing its last witness, Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the mosque’s demolition and was dismissed soon after. Incidentally, this week Kalyan Singh said he had owned up “moral responsibility” for the destruction at that time.

The commission has recorded the statements of several politicians, bureaucrats and police officials, including the late Narasimha Rao, Advani and his BJP colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati as well as Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party.

However, the panel had a tough time during the deposition of Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar, who used some foul language and went to the extent of saying that the report of the commission would be “useless” and would gather dust on official shelves.

On Dec 6, 1992, rightwing Hindu activists attacked the Babri mosque, saying it was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram. The incident sparked off nationwide communal strife, claiming around 2,000 lives and polarising Indian society.

(Murali Krishnan can be contacted at m.krish@ians.in)

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