On the night of December 6, 1992, the BBC paused the broadcasting and announced that the Sunday Observer correspondent from Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, was on the Qurban Ali line and had just arrived from Ayodhya. The voice that followed was that of Qurban Ali. In which he told the world that the Babri Masjid built on the initiative of Mughal ruler Zaheeruddin Babar is no more. By the time they left Ayodhya, it had turned into a pile of rubble.
That day, since noon that day, no media outlet had been able to contact its reporters in Ayodhya. The government was claiming that a mob attacked the mosque and caused minor damage, and security forces pushed them back. Hindu nationalist organizations Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) started the Ram Mandir movement and LK Advani’s Rath Yatra saw the frenzied crowd waving swords and spears in the air. Although the late Pramod Mahajan was the chief organizer of the yatra, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to give a briefing on the program at the BJP office in Delhi.
After the bizarre decision of the Supreme Court in November last year, the mosque had become a thing of the past. Now, the special court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, acquitted those who demolished it last week and put the last nail of the coffin of justice.
The trial of this case has been going on for the last 28 years but there was little hope, however, when the Supreme Court handed over the land of the mosque to Hindu Lord Ram Lalla, it also supported three important arguments given by the Muslim side, admitted and included in the decision. The Supreme Court admitted that placing an idol of Lord Rama in the mihrab of the mosque during the night in 1949 and then demolishing the mosque in December 1992 were criminal acts.
The court also clarified, citing archeological research, that when the construction of the mosque began in 1528, the remains of any place of worship were not found. Although, during the excavations, the remains found from the site suggest that there was an 11th-century building on the site that had been destroyed long ago and that there was no building on this place for the past 500 years.
These arguments gave rise to a faint hope that, even though the construction of a magnificent temple had begun on the land of the mosque, an example would be set by punishing those who demolished the masjid. But in his more than 2000-page judgment, Special Court Judge Surinder Kumar Yadav acquitted all 32 accused, ignoring the Supreme Court’s directive and all the evidence.
Narendra Modi came in 2014 but before him, even the secular parties Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which were alive by the support of Muslims, showed no interest in taking action against those accused of demolishing the Babri Masjid. Even a minor notification could not be issued to prosecute these persons in the special court. And when the notification was issued after a long delay, it contained technical flaws, which were then removed on the notification of Allahabad High Court in 2010. And after combining all the cases, the hearing started in the special court of Lucknow recently.
Leading photojournalist Parveen Jain photographed the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, and later published them in his newspaper, The Pioneer. The prosecution named them as a witness. The way he was harassed during this time and how he faced the hostile attitude of the lawyers and the court staff on the day of his appearance in court is a painful story in itself.
When the summons came, he would leave Delhi for Lucknow by train a day before the scheduled date. Many a time, after waiting for the summon outside the court all day, it was said that there would be no testimony today, because either the judge is not present, or the prosecution or defense counsel is not present. According to Jane, after many years of such attempts, one day when he was brought before the witness stand, and his statement was about to be recorded, an elderly lawyer came to the stand and started abusing him close to his ear and threatened him by abusing his mother and sister. Jane complained to the judge in a loud voice that he was being threatened in a packed courtroom.
The judge ordered that he be given a white paper so that he could file his complaint in writing. As soon as the complaint reached the judge, the defense counsel argued that this case should now be disposed of first as to who had abused and threatened the witness. Meanwhile, there started a turmoil in the courtroom and the testimony was postponed till the next date and it was said that he should appoint his own lawyer because now the case of threatening him will be decided in the court first. Annoyed, Jain withdrew the case and requested for his statement regarding the original case, the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Thus, after several dates, when the testimony was recorded, he was told that just the pictures were not enough and he had to prove his presence in Ayodhya on December 6. Somehow, after several months of hard work, he pulled out an old record from a hotel in Faizabad, the district headquarters of Ayodhya, and obtained a certificate from his old company, Pioneer. But now he has been told in court that even these papers are insufficient. He finally got the train ticket from decades ago and now after many years, it was been decided that he was in Ayodhya that day.
Later, he was told that his photographs were not credible, so he will have to present his negative print in court. Meanwhile, in his absence in Delhi, some thieves raided his flat and destroyed the entire house. The condition of the house indicated that the intruders were looking for something. He says cash, jewelry and other valuables were missing, but the negatives of the photographs survived because they were safely stored elsewhere.
Pictures of the preparation of the demolition of the mosque and the facilitation of the formal rehearsal before that event, were presented in the court. It turned out that two civil engineers and an architect were formally training the carjackers to demolish the mosque building. Their faces were clear in the pictures.
Similarly, a Kashmiri Pandit Sanjay Kaw was a witness. Before the demolition of the mosque, he had officially revealed through a sting operation that the Babri Masjid would be demolished on December 6. In those days, stinging with a hidden camera was not prevailing. According to Kaw, when he was going to his home from the Statesman newspaper office, the driver told him that something big was going to happen in Ayodhya this time.
The editor allowed him to go to Ayodhya the next day. But Kao decided to go as a carjacker instead of a journalist and got a carjack card by registering in the BJP office in Delhi in the name of Sanjay Cole. Despite being a Hindu and Kashmiri Pandit, he was interrogated many times not only in the train but also in Faizabad. He described himself as an engineering student, who had to drop out of education due to the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.
Arriving in Ayodhya, six or seven people again interrogated him. After presenting himself as a Kashmiri Pandit, he was finally asked to join a group of carjackers and stay in a tent.
The group was led by a sadhu with a walkie-talkie, who took them to a cemetery the next day and ordered them to demolish the graves. The carjackers were talking to each other that the mosque should be demolished in the same way. Sadhu had warned them that no journalist or member of the secret service should be around them. Repeated interrogations, rehearsals, and the attitudes towards journalists frightened Kao.
In the darkness of the night, he fled the tent, first to Faizabad and then to Delhi, where he reported in several installments in the Statesman that preparations for the demolition of the mosque were complete.
According to Kurban Ali, a journalist who reported the demolition of the mosque to the world, the historic royal mosque was reduced to rubble by 6 pm. He had been in Ayodhya for several days with Mark Tilly, the BBC’s South Asia bureau chief. He said that although the rumors were hot, the demolition of the mosque was not expected. At 11:30 a.m. Indian time, the carjackers stormed the mosque. Along with them, another group was looking for journalists, beating them and locking them in rooms.
Mark Tully and Ali tackled them and somehow got out of Ayodhya and reached Faizabad, and sent news to Delhi from the telegraph office there. At that time, the troops of the Central Reserve Police Force based in Faizabad had started marching towards Ayodhya. This was the last news that reached Delhi. On their return, the two journalists saw that the Central Force had been stopped just outside Ayodhya. Well, they entered Ayodhya by another route and a mob recognized Mark Tilly and Ali and locked them in a room in a dilapidated temple. They were first conspiring to kill them. Then their chief told them that first the case of the mosque should be settled, that is, it should be completely demolished, then their fate would be decided.
In the evening, another group opened the lock and brought them to the court of VHP Chief Ashok Singhal, who was acquainted with Kurban Ali and Mark Tully, so he released them. But leaving the city was still difficult. Ali says that just ten kilometers from Ayodhya to Faizabad seemed to be several hundred kilometers away that day and when he was entering the hotel in Faizabad, BBC Urdu was broadcasting the night session, where he spoke to them on the phone and conveyed the news to the world.
Leading jurist and author AG Noorani discussed the conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid in the third volume of his book Destruction of Babri Masjid: A National Dishonor. According to him, the Indian judiciary and administration played a vital role in the demolition of the mosque and manifested their sectarian mentality.
Noorani revealed that instead of saving the mosque and ensuring the rule of law and the constitution, Justice Venkatachaliah was concerned about the health of the carjackers. He may have been appointed head of a high-powered commission in return for these services in 1998 by the BJP coalition government. According to former Home Secretary Madhu Godbole, he too was aware of the preparations for the martyrdom of the mosque, therefore his department had suggested the imposition of a governor’s rule in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Noorani says that Rao himself was directly involved in the demolition of the mosque. According to him, during the Indira Gandhi rule of the Congress, a deal was struck with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to pave the way for the construction of Ram Mandir on the site of Babri Masjid. Rajiv Gandhi revived the deal, but before that, he wanted to do some favors to the Muslims. For that, they fabricated a case of Shah Bano and then got a bill passed from the parliament that the court cannot make any amendment in the Muslim Personal Laws.
According to the author, he had advised Rajiv Gandhi that there was no point in dragging out the issue, and that it could be resolved according to Sharia law instead of Anglo-Muhammadan law, but he was bent on making Muslims political fools so that the deal with the VHP could be taken forward. And this is what happened. The secular parties, along with Hindu nationalists, are equally culprit in the crime of demolishing the Babri Masjid and saving its culprits from punishment. The Babri Masjid has removed the veil from all the faces after the demolition and if one still does not see these faces in their original form, then surely nothing can be done except to cast doubt on their mental condition.
Adopted and Translated from an article of The Wire Urdu.