By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Politically, the Indian public appears to be far more matured and secular than the politicians. This was marked by the 17th anniversary of demolition of Babari Masjid (December 6) being witness to primarily only political activists expressing their respective stands on the controversial issue, while the common people decided to remain away from the same. It would be erroneous to assume that the people have been unaware about politicians raking the issue again. The issue hit the headlines recently with the Liberhan Commission report being tabled in the Parliament (November 24). The commission led by retired Indian Supreme Court Judge M.S. Liberhan was formed on December 16, 1992 to investigate the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992 and the accompanying riots. It has taken the commission 17 years, 48 extensions, to finally submit the report to PM Manmohan Singh on June 30, 2009. A day ahead of it being tabled in the Parliament, contents of the commissionâ€™s report leaked to the media leading the politicians to level charges against each other over the leak and also the demolition.
Despite the legislators raising a row over the issue in the Parliament as well as through the media, the Indian people have not allowed themselves to be provoked to a stage of any communal frenzy in any part of the country. Though the 17th anniversary was witness to demonstrations in different parts of the country, including the capital city and Ayodhya, by and large, the day passed peacefully. While several Muslim organizations observed the anniversary as â€œBlack Day,â€ the Hindu organizations marked it as â€œVictory Day.â€ There was tight security in Delhi and other parts of the country.
Ironically, though Parliament Street saw different groups assembling to voice their demands on the issue, they confined themselves to their associates and did not clash with each other. Among groups which voiced their stands at Parliament Street were All India Babari Masjid Rebuilding Committee (AIBMRC), Popular Front of India (PFI), Shiv Sena and Hindu Mahasabha. While the Muslim groups (AIBMRC and PFI) demanded action against those responsible for the demolition, Shiv Sena and Hindu Mahasabha claimed that Liberhan Commissionâ€™s report would only strengthen their movement.
â€œBharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani and others mentioned as culprits should be arrested and tried on a fast-track basis. Legal action is necessary against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena clique because they violated the law of the land and caused great harm to the secular image of India,â€ AIBMRC President Mohammed Younus Siddiqui said. The AIBMRC also submitted a memo to President Pratibha Patil for â€œtime-bound and bindingâ€ decision on the Ayodhya issue by Supreme Court under Article 138-B of the Constitution.
During its demonstration at Jantar Mantar, the PFI demanded that Election Commission should cancel BJPâ€™s recognition as a political party for its role in the Babari Masjidâ€™s demolition. â€œThe ECI should scrap BJPâ€™s political recognition. We also demand that the Congress fulfill its promise of rebuilding the mosque,â€ PFI leader K.M. Shareef said.
Blaming the Congress-led government for playing with â€œsentiments of Hindu community,â€ Pandit Nandkishore Mishra, national working president of Hindu Mahasabha said: â€œOur movement has become stronger in the wake of the Liberhan Commissionâ€™s report being made public, which is nothing but a bundle of lies.â€
The week began with the Lok Sabha debating on the controversial issue (December 7) under the non-voting Rule 193. The debate had been postponed twice earlier due to non-availability of the Hindi version of Liberhan Commissionâ€™s report. Before the debate began, Speaker Meira Kumar asked the members to present their views in the most â€œdispassionate manner,â€ with it being a â€œpolitically sensitiveâ€ issue. Ironically, while the Lok Sabha was witness to parliamentarians going overboard to assert their stand on the issue, the people at large displayed a passive approach towards the same. The people have apparently sensed that irrespective of what the different political partiesâ€™ stand is on the controversial issue, their primary aim is to exploit it politically. Thus as politicians debated strongly and passionately in the Parliament, the common Indian remained unmoved by this political drama despite it being given a new turn by Liberhan Commissionâ€™s report.
Initiating the debate, Gurudas Dasgupta (Communist Party of India) wondered as to how to could a fundamentalist party lead to the demolition despite the Congress being in power at the center. When the mosque was demolished, Uttar Pradesh government was led by BJP, with Kalyan Singh (then a BJP member) as the chief minister, while P.V. Narsimha Rao (Congress) was the Prime Minister. â€œWe were put to shame (by the demolition),â€ Dasgupta said. The demolition was a result of meticulous planning, he said. The nation wanted to know, he said: â€œWhy the disaster could not be prevented? Why the criminals could not be held in jail? Why did the political system fail?â€
During his speech, BJP president dismissed Liberhan Commission report as a â€œpolitical documentâ€ which was â€œbaseless, biased and prejudicedâ€ based on assumptions and presumptions.
Congress leader Jagdambika Pal laid stress on need of taking steps to ensure that such a tragic and shameful incident does not take place again. He blamed BJP for exploiting the issue not for religious reasons but to consolidate its vote bank by provoking communal fire. â€œIt is necessary to protect our pillars of secularism and democracy. Besides, there are bigger issues like that of unemployment, staring in the face of the nation,â€ Pal said.
The hard-core political rivals in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had a similar stand on the issue. Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) held both the BJP and Congress responsible for the demolition. BSP leader Dara Singh Chohan went a step further, holding both BJP and Congress as responsible for the demolition and alleging that they had prepared the Liberhan Commission report jointly.
Seventeen years have passed, during which the Indian voters have matured enough not to be taken for a ride by communal passion being raised by politicians over a highly sensitive issue. Sadly, as displayed by the uproar raised in the Parliament over the Liberhan Commission report, the politicians have not yet learnt this!