Sunday, July 05, 2009

Liberhan Commission, Babri Masjid: A Historical Perspective

December 6, 1992: Hindu fanatics celebrating demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya

Had Zahiruddin Mohammed Badshah Ghazi, popularly known as Babar, been alive today, he would be certainly ashamed of modern India. A mosque built in his name razed by Hindu fundamentalists has become a functioning temple but yet it is termed as a “disputed structure.” Babar would have certainly argued with the present rulers that his medieval India was far better than the modern India in terms of justice. In Babar’s India, there was no such thing called as “delayed justice” or “judicial delay.” Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan Commission of Inquiry has taken 17 long years just to ascertain events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid. Babar would have decided the fate of the so-called “disputed structure” in 17 minutes! Politicians, judges, bureaucrats, journalists all love to use the “disputed structure” tag; it in fact gives them a legitimate right to feel ‘secular.’ Their “secularism” will pale when one compares Babar’s conception of secularism. For Babar, secularism did not mean separation of religion from the state but rather equal respect for all religions.

The secularism of Babar is hidden in a forgotten document. It could be a commandment of good governance for leaders like L.K. Advani.

Babar had drafted a secret will much before his death for his son Prince Nasiruddin Muhammad Humayun. In this will, there is a lesson for each politician father and a politician son. An extract of the will reads:

“Oh son! The Kingdom of India is full of different religions. Praised be to God that He bestowed upon you its sovereignty. It is incumbent on you to wipe all religious prejudices off the tablet of your heart, administer justice according to the ways every religion. Avoid especially the sacrifice of the cow by which you can capture the hearts of the people of India and subjects of this country may be bound up with royal obligations. Do not ruin temples and shrines of any community which is obeying the laws of Government. Administer justice in such a manner that the King be pleased with the subjects and the subjects with the King. The cause of Islam can be promoted more by the sword of obligation than by the sword of tyranny.”
(A copy of this will used to be in the possession of the late Dr. Balkrishna, Principal, Rajaram College , Kolhapur).

Can a father who abhors ruining temples and shrines of other religions build a mosque in his name after demolishing a temple?

Babri Masjid was possibly built by a courtesan Mir Baqi on the instructions of Babar in the 1528 at Ayodhya. There is historical evidence in the form of inscriptions inside the mosque to support the assumption that it was constructed on the order of Babar. Also there is nothing in history that suggests that Babar ever visited Ayodhya. A complete and close reading of Babarnama shows that Babar was encamped north of Aud on March 28 1528. According to one historian Babar was encamped at the junction of the rivers Sirda and Gagra. On April 2, Babar went out to hunt in the area north of the camp. Babar must have left the encampment, as he records on March 28, 1528 that he had asked to find ways to cross the river. We are forced to doubt if Babar ever went to Ayodhya. So the question of demolishing a temple at Ayodhya does not arise.

So with Liberhan Commission, Indian Muslims have been awarded with one more inquiry report. Will it suffer the fate of Sri Krishna Commission report? Going by the history of promise and subsequent betrayals by the government, the four-volume report will gather dust in the dustbin of history. First government needs to clear speck of dust from earlier inquiry commissions and reports concerning Indian Muslims. Successive Congress governments have been extremely good in documenting Muslim issues but the true intent of any government is measured by the pace of implementation. Congress will once again show Indian Muslims bubbles of hope but alas bubbles don’t last a lifetime. For last 60 years, Indian Muslims have been appeased with bubbles.

The role of the judiciary in Babri Masjid episode has come under sharp criticism. Strangely enough, Pakistan has done better than India on this front. The story of
Lahore’s Shahidganj Masjid is Ayodhya in reverse. All the elements of Ayodhya case were present. A mosque in adverse possession of Sikhs was demolished. Muslims agitated and there was involvement of religious figures. Muslims were frustrated by the court decision. It upheld that the title of ownership was no longer in Muslim hands and therefore Sikhs were entitled to whatever they liked to do with the structure. Muslims decided to move in the Punjab Assembly to enact legislation for the takeover of the site. They all failed. But the situation was not reversed even after the establishment of Pakistan. To this day, when there is hardly anyone to visit it, the Gurdwara Shahidganj stands in Lahore as it did before August 15 1947.

In Babri Masjid case, the ownership of the land was in Muslim hands. It is a wakf property and according to section 51 of Wakf Act 1995, wakf property cannot be transferred to ‘Nyas’ (Shri Ramjanambhumi Nyas) for Ram temple construction.

In the Shahidganj case the judiciary acted impartially and speedily. In the Ayodhya case, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer had angrily remarked: “The judiciary will be described as villain of the piece.”

According to Ms. Anju Gupta, the then superintendent of the police, Faizabad, Police had foreknowledge of the Babri Masjid demolition. Deposing before the Liberhan Commission in May 1994, she told that on December 5, 1992, the then inspector general of police, Faizabad zone, had warned officers of his department that there was clear indication from intelligence agencies that the disputed shrine would be attacked on December 6. She had told the commission that L.K. Advani expressed his desire to go to the area to stop the Kar Sevaks but she was discouraged by SP of Intelligence, PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary). Ms. Gupta told the commission that Advani had in her presence said that temple would be constructed at the very spot and the same was repeated by Murli Manohar Joshi, accepting that they were pleased with the actions of Kar Sevaks. The Bajrang Dal leader, Vinay Katiyar, had mocked Mulayam Singh Yadav by saying over the public speaking system ‘Yahan parinda par nahi maar sakta.’

Will Manmohan Singh speak with clarity of thought over Ayodhya issue? One is reminded of what Jyoti Basu had said on December 9, 1992 regarding the makeshift construction by kar sevaks. “It is an illegal construction and government has every right to demolish it.” When he was asked about the possible Hindu backlash, Basu was honest and blunt, “Let there be repercussions from the Hindu fundamentalists. My party will support any government willing to bring down the structure erected by demolishing the shrine.”

Men like Basu are becoming a rare breed in Indian politics.

Can Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do a Jyoti Basu in 2009?

Sunday Inquilab, July 5, 2009