Saji Mathew Kanayankal CST
QUESTION: As the verdict of the special court on the demolition of the Babari Masjid raises serious concern on the implementation of justice in our country, what would be a way out? What are the far-reaching consequences of such a verdict? – Leo Mark
ANSWER: Yes, finally, after the indefensible delay of twenty-eight years, the verdict on the demolition of the Babari Masjid was delivered. All accused, including a former Home Minister, a former Cabinet Minister, and a former Chief Minister were acquitted and the court has handed a clean chit to them, telling that ‘the demolition was not pre-planned and the accused persons were trying to stop the mob and not incite them.’ According to the court, “the action of the mob was spontaneous and was not pre-planned!” Though it is of twenty-eight years of old, many of us who are aware of this “egregious violation of the rule of law” (The comment of the Supreme Court on 9 November 2019), is doubtful about the law and order in our country. This verdict was highly criticized for its absurdity and incongruity. Retired justice M. S Liberhan, who was to inquire into the demolition said to TheOutlook that the verdict was an “utter farce.” As Sruthisagar Yamunan in his column wrote, by this verdict Indian judiciary has “dug its reputation into an even-deeper hole.” It is a blow to our cultural and civilisational values, both ancient and modern that may intensify the division in the society. If the demolition of Babari Masjid on 6 December 1992 has ‘shredded the fabric of society’ (Report of Liberhan Commission) and ruined the values that our country has inherited through thousands of years, this verdict is the cremation of it. In the dawn of a partial, unjust, biased and corrupted democratic structure, the legal and judicial system of the country was a beacon of hope for many unprivileged and minorities. But this verdict scatters our all hopes on justice, truth and righteousness. As the editorial on 1 October 2020 of The Hindu titled; “Justice in ruins.”
The special CBI judge SK Yadav added in his verdict that there was no sufficient evidence against the accused and the court cannot probe the authenticity of the audio and the video shreds of evidence provided by the CBI. It is reported that over 100 videotapes of the incident were presented. But, for the court, its audios were not clear and the video footages were not acceptable because the filming was not clear. It was not produced in the sealed envelopes as well! Moreover, the photos they provided could not be considered as evidence since they could not produce negatives and the forensic analysis of it. In the long process of the case, 351 witnesses were testified and 800 documents were provided. But the judge was not convinced or the CBI failed to convince the judge on the crime.
According to the verdict, those who climbed over the dome were ‘anti-national’ elements. They do not have a name, no face, and there is no clarity on their personality. It was an anonymous mob with no identity! It is convenient to blame on a faceless, lawless, collective noun- ‘the mob’ or “elements” because the law cannot punish thousands of persons ‘whose faces are not clear’ or whose faces it does not know!
It may be a paradox to see a detailed judgement narrating the innocence of the accused. No wonder, it is all about how there was no plan to destroy the mosque! A 2300 pages of report on the absence of a plan! Through this, the judge explained the absence of the absolute evidence to demolish the mosque. One of the findings is that when the crowd went into frenzy and vandals went up to the dome, the accused were trying to restrain the mob! Just opposition to the fact! The inflammatory speeches by the leaders to build a Ram temple on the site occupied the mosque were not all heard by the court. The continuous slogans like “Demolish Masjid, Construct Mandir and sent Babar’s sons to Pakistan” are unheard! Many journalists and press reporters who were the eye-witnesses of the whole event are still alive and as Sharat Pradhan in his article on The Wire commented; “only the wilfully blind will believe there was no conspiracy behind Babari Masjid demolition.”
The court was also blind to the findings of Justice M.S. Liberhan, who submitted his report in June 2009 after 17 long years of inquiry. In the report, he clearly states: “prognosis of the evidence to the conclusion that the mobilization of the karsevaks and their convergence to Ayodya and Faizabad was neither spontaneous nor voluntary. It was well orchestrated and planned” (No 158.9). Moreover, many journalists who witnessed the minute-to-minute flow of events have already pointed out their strong conviction about the hands of some trained persons who have done the demolition and a pre-planned agenda. After the verdict, Madav Godbole, the home secretary at the time of demolishing said, “I am aghast with this verdict because, firstly, a huge mosque of this size coming down within a period of five hours without any planning or without any preparation on the part of anybody is impossible to believe.” According to Justice Liberhan, there was “ample evidence available to prove complicity and culpability of these leaders” and to “demonstrate conclusively the pre-planned conspiracy behind the destruction of the disputed structure (the Babari Masjid).” To The Week he told; “I do not believe that there was not enough evidence towards establishing a conspiracy in the demolition of the Babari Masjid” (The Week, September 30, 2020). He was satisfied with the videos and audios gave to him! In the report, the Liberhan committee has recommended for exemplary punishment to the guilty for misusing religion to acquire political power.
In fact, the demolition had challenged the legitimacy of the judiciary itself. But the court failed to recall it. Kalayan Singh, the then Chief Minister of UP promised that he would protect the Masjid. On 27 November 1992, he has given an affidavit before the Supreme Court that his government was ‘fully competent to prevent the violation of the court’s order’ and he rejected the assistance of force offered by the Central government. In an interview to The Hindustan Times on 1 August 2020, he told that he was the one who denied to prevent the forces not to fire on the mob since it would cause the death of many. In his own words; “I am proud of my decision as today I can proudly say that I might have lost my government but saved kar sewaks. Now, in hindsight, I feel that subsequent demolition eventually paved the way for the temple.” But for the court, all those statements, reports and documents were not good enough to proof of the guilty of the accused. We see that the saying “it is always possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake one who is pretending to be asleep” becomes a reality!
The Indian Express has reported an observation of justice SK Yadav on the role of Pakistan in demolishing the Masjid. Even those who were involved in the act have not made such a claim so far! Many of them are proud of what they have done as well. There is no wonder in the creation of such new stories in present India. It can be seen as a continuation of the stories created after the brutal murder of Graham Stains and his children (1992), Gujrat riots (2002) and the Massacre of Christians at Kandamal (2008). The latest example would be the incident at Hathra. As per the recent reports, the police say that the accusation of rape itself was wrong and they could not find any evidence for it! Moreover, the FIR is going to be registered against the family of the victim! In the new India, many fabricated stories are formed, enough propaganda is given and the media is used to circulate these accounts and finally, all such kinds of atrocities will be justified. After the verdict of CBI special court, some statements have already appeared. For example, the RSS hailed the verdict as a sign of flag bearer of national unity. Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, the Civil Aviation Minister of India, a former diplomat, welcoming the judgement commented, “false narratives and conspiracy theories are finally laid to rest by the Hon’bl CBI Court in historic Babari Masjid Demolition Verdict.” It seems that the findings of the Liberhan commission and the various reports, as well as documents on the demolition of Masjid, are mere ‘false narratives and conspiracy theories.’ Yogi Adithyanath, the CM of UP claims that the then Congress government acted with political bias, indulged in vote bank politics, defamed the BJP leaders, saints, Vishva Hindu Parishad leaders and various social organisations by lodging false cases. He demanded an apology from the people involved in the conspiracy to the people of the country!
This is a clear sign of the encompassing of the neo-fascism in the entire sphere of our country. Unlike the powerful military conquest of classical fascism, the traits of neo-fascism are silent. It may not be easy to grasp it. The parliament is still there, but the space for open debate and discussions will be faded. We have witnessed the passing of new laws that are incompatible with the constitution with the misuse of the parliamentary majority. The elections will be held as per the schedule but the result will be in favour of the authoritarian regime. The judiciary functions, but the verdict will not be against the ruling party. The investigation agencies are active, but the finding will be as per the plan of the powerful. Commissions will function, but the report will be written as per the pre-planned scheme. The failures of the government will be covered with many vibrant slogans of nationalism and religion! The totalitarianism completely captures the nation, its institutions so that they are subservient or loyal to the party and the leader. The judges may not act freely. The police and the investigation agencies work at the behest of the ruling party. The meaning of the German word ‘Gleichschaltung,’ (coordination) has a positive connotation in English. But it was used by Nazis to denote their complete control over all institutions and forms of public life by eliminating all opposition within the political, economic and cultural institution in the country. In the perfect ‘coordination’ nothing in the country may remain out of their control. The present verdict on the demolition of the Babari Masjid reminds me of these thoughts. To be blind to the facts and be silent to the atrocities may not help for the growth and prosperity of the nation. The entire story of Mahabharatha is a powerful image of the collapse of dharma in the society. The king has the responsibility to keep the ethos of the country by keeping righteousness and justice. The silence and blindness of a king at the face of atrocities, injustice and violence led to the Kurukshetra, the terrible war. The net result was the entire ruin of the country. When justice is ruined and the cry of the oppressed is silenced with the power and authority, the peace, prosperity and growth of a nation also are in danger!