The report of the M.S. Liberhan Commission, which probed the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya, has not left anybody wiser. In fact, there is more information available from other sources. The report appears to be incomprehensive despite the long time it took for Liberhan to submit his findings after so much money was spent and numerous extensions given.
What has surprised many is that Liberhan made no attempt to examine so many people who were in the know of things. Instead, he reached his conclusions that are not only inconsistent but are written in different styles of language across sections. Liberhan must have certainly silenced his critics in the bar who always questioned his ability to write judgements and reports.
The report actually made its way into the public domain through a selective leak to The Indian Express during Parliament session. Understandably, the leakage led to a hue and cry and both the Congress and the BJP accused each other of sharing the report with the newspaper. As according to the home minister’s statement, there were just two copies of the report and he assured members that he had not leaked it. The obvious implication of this was that the leakage occurred from Liberhan’s side.
Though the learned judge denied vehemently any such doing on his part, several BJP and Janata Dal (United) members admitted in private to the possibility of the hand of a Haryana politician in the affair. Many also saw this as a ploy to unite the divided BJP and also to enable L.K. Advani, under fire from the RSS, to extend his tenure as leader of the Opposition. The other explanation was that the report could have been leaked by the Congress to divide a united opposition wanting to discuss price rise, the Koda episode and a host of other issues.
But coming back to the report, a lot was made out of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s name appearing among those responsible for the conspiracy to knock down the Babri Masjid. VHP leader Ashok Singhal on Friday did confirm that Vajpayee was associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement even if there was nothing to suggest his direct involvement. In any case, he was the biggest beneficiary of the movement since he went on to become the Prime Minister for six-and-a-half years over two terms.
Singhal, incidentally, has advised Advani to refrain from saying things like “It was the saddest day of his life.”
The report goes on to absolve P.V. Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister. This has been done without caring to examine leaders like Makhan Lal Fotedar who was the only member of Rao’s Cabinet to resign on this issue and who had warned him time and again that the kar sevaks would demolish the disputed structure.
Fotedar, a former political adviser to both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, later told Rao at a Cabinet meeting on the day of the incident that he was to be blamed for the destruction of the structure. Earlier, the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma had told Fotedar that he got the impression that Rao had prevented Governor B. Satya Narayan Reddy from imposing President’s rule at that time as a pre-emptive step. Liberhan never examined Reddy.
Sources in the bureaucracy also confirmed that even the Cabinet Secretary S. Rajgopal had an inkling of what was going to happen on that day. But the PM overruled him. Singhal has alleged that Rao was sympathetic to their cause. The rest, as they say, is history.
What has surprised many is that the government’s comments on the report are extremely bureaucratic. It is true that with a report like this, there is nothing much any government can do in its Action Taken Report (ATR).
But the anthology of different styles in the Liberhan report is, in fact, a joke on the people of India. Who will ever believe any commission of inquiry after such a shoddy job? In the end, Justice Liberhan has no reason to be proud of himself. Between us.