A B Vajpayee and L K Advani head a list of 68 leaders of the Sangh Parivaar and bureaucrats held culpable by the Liberhan Commission for leading the country to the "brink of communal discord" over the Ayodhya issue.
In his nearly 1,000-page report, former Madras High Court Chief Justice M S Liberhan, who conducted an inquiry into the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya 17 years ago, has also indicted other senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and top brass of VHP like Giriraj Kishore and Ashok Singhal.
The Commission has held that Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi, whom it calls "pseudo-moderate" leadership of the BJP, were party to the decisions of the Sangh Parivaar to demolish the 16th century structure in Ayodhya.
In a scathing indictment, the Commission said these leaders cannot be given the benefit of the doubt and exonerated of culpability.
"They have violated the trust of the people.....There can be no greater betrayal or crime in a democracy and this Commission has no hesitation in condemning there pseudo-moderates for their sins of omission", the report said.
Other prominent political leaders indicted by the Commission include Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray, former RSS leader K Govindacharya, late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, former BJP leader Uma Bharti and BJP leader Vijayraje Scindia.
Noting that it "cannot be assumed even for a moment that Advani, Vajpayee or Joshi did not know the designs of the Sangh Parivar", the Commission said it was "unable to hold even those pseudo-moderates innocent of any wrong doings."
It said the "pseudo-moderate leadership of BJP was as much a tool in the hands of the RSS as any other organization or entity and these leaders stood to inherit the political successes engineered by the RSS".
"The BJP was and remains an appendage of the RSS which had the purpose of only providing an acceptable veneer to the less popular decisions and a facade for the brash members of the Sangh Parivar," the report noted.
The Commission attacked the political leaders for reducing "one of the greatest nations, and one of the oldest civilisations to a state of stark intolerance and barbarianism -- all for petty political gains".
Among the bureaucrats who were named in the report were then Principal Secretary (Home) in UP Prabhat Kumar, then IG (Security) A K Saran and then SSP of Faizabad D B Roy.
Quantifying the culpability, the Commission has divided the leaders, bureaucrats and the organisations into three groups with the first representing those who bear the "primary and the greatest" responsibility for the events of December 6, 1992.
The Commission said the second group consists of those who bear physical, ideological and intellectual responsibility while the third one represented those who bear tertiary responsibility for the situation.
"However, the core group of the primary accused, cloaked and shielded by those in the secondary group, and with the inaction and cluelessness of the tertiary group, managed to reduce one of the greatest nations and one of the oldest civilisations to the state of stark intolerance....", it said.
The Commission said between the three classes of actors, lies the entire spectrum of those responsible for the events of Ayodhya.
On the one hand, it said, leaders like Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi, who are the "undeniable public face and leaders of the BJP and thus of the Parivar", constantly protested their innocence and denounced the events of December 1992.
On the other hand, "it stands beyond doubt that the events of the day were neither spontaneous nor unplanned nor an unforeseen overflowing of the people's emotion, the Commission said.
Holding the three top BJP leaders of being "party to the decisions which had been taken", the Commission went on to say that the much repeated and much denied remarks attributed to Govindacharya who called Vajpayee a 'mukhota' or a mask may be more appropriately applied to the BJP's top leadership at the time collectively.
However, the Commission said the 'pseudo-moderates' who were "charged with the task of projecting the RSS decision in the best possible light and to translate them into terms which would be acceptable to general masses", were not in charge of the situation, much less capable of changing the course that the campaign was taking.
The Commission said, "The blame or the credit for the entire temple construction movement at Ayodhya must necessarily be attributed to Sangh Parivar."
"As the inner core of the Parivar, the top leadership of the RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and the BJP bear primary responsibility," it added.
On the role of bureaucracy, the Commission said, "the decay and erosion in the values of the civil service were all too apparent in UP in the years leading up to 1992."
"The civil service in the state failed in its primary responsibility to provide good governance and actively abetted the demolition of every democratic safeguard provided in the Constitution," it said.
"I have no hesitation in holding that they became part and parcel of the political parties governing at a particular point of time and actively participated in achieving the election manifesto and perpetuating the reign of political party in power, even at the cost of their colleagues," the Commission said.
It also noted that the police and the bureaucracy of the state "not just turned a blind eye to the mis-adventures of the polity but actively connived and curried favour with the chief minister (Kalyan Singh) and the Sangh Parivar by systematically paralysing the state machinery."
"The police and the administrators were the executors of the designs of the RSS, VHP, BJP, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena etc," it said.