If deep-seated memories can be triggered in French novels by the taste of a cake dipped in tea, in post-kamandal India, a leaked report can do the trick. Short of a fortnight before the 17th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, an event that increasingly demands a gesture from secular politicians rather than tangible action, the Justice M.S. Liberhan Commission finds itself prematurely in the public domain. To call the publication of parts of the confidential report ‘premature’ is, of course, stashed with irony. After all, 17 years after the event, with 48 extensions and more than a fistful of crores, ‘premature’ isn’t the word that immediately comes to mind. But with Mr Liberhan having submitted his report on May 30 this year and the initial plan of the government to present his findings, along with an Action Taken Report — before December 30 in Parliament— scheduling has been disrupted. Along with the speculative bit about who leaked the report — the Home Ministry or Mr Liberhan or one of the translators preparing the Hindi version of the report for Parliament — the question is: who gains by the unscheduled ‘remembrance’?
BJP leader L.K. Advani will find it difficult to treat the report and the drumbeats that have accompanied its ‘leakage’ as a personalised lifejacket. With the Sangh parivar leadership having successfully made him walk the plank ever since the BJP’s demolition that started since the Lok Sabha poll results in May, Mr Advani suddenly finds himself not only prodded to jump ship but be looked at with new ‘old’ eyes. The indictment of other leaders like Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh, who had left the flock because of Mr Advani and have been waiting in the wings to re-enter the BJP since Mr Advani’s star was falling fast in the party, may now find themselves in the same team.
The advantage that the Congress may find itself with is more indirect: the report, coming a week after the BJP found voice (and success) with other political parties in agitating against the sugar price hike, could serve as a gentle reminder to ‘secular’ anti-Congress forces about who they may want to gang up with. Mulayam Singh Yadav, for instance, made a renewed pitch last week through his own version of communalised politics by invoking the Babri Masjid. In the aftermath of the Liberhan report, the Congress has to do little to jog memories regarding former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s role in the Babri Masjid demolition, something that, during the short-lived political friendship with the indicted Kalyan Singh, the Samajwadi Party leader himself might have forgotten.
There is nothing in the Liberhan report that is really new. The trial against those behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid continues despite, rather than because of, Mr Liberhan’s observations and if there are ‘new’ names indicted, new criminal charges will have to be made. What will ensue in and beyond Parliament over the next few weeks is not a demand to bring what triggered one of independent India’s most savage moments to a close but how political players can work the findings of the report to their advantage.