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Dasgupta dares BJP to 'own up' Babri demolition

By Sheela Bhatt
December 07, 2009 16:37 IST
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"I don't call it a debate, I call it introspection," said Gurudas Dasgupta, Communist Party of India's member of Parliament while kickstarting the rarest of rare debates in the Lok Sabha on Monday -- on perhaps the most politically sensitive issue in independent India.

On December 6, 1992, the Babri masjid was demolished in Ayodhya; following this the then Congress government led by P V Narasimha Rao had formed a one-judge commission, headed by Justice Liberhan, to inquire into the circumstances that led to the demolition and identify who did it.

Justice Liberhan submitted his report after 17 long years, which the Lok Sabha was debating on Monday.

Opening the debate in the Lok Sabha on the Liberhan Commission report and the Action Taken Report by the government, Dasgupta said, "The demolition of Babri masjid was a cowardly act, it was a betrayal of the nation."

Taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party, he didn't downplay the role of the then Congress government at the Centre either. But his harshest words were reserved for BJP and the Sangh Parivar leaders. "When a secular government was in place in New Delhi, how could a fundamentalist party impose its will on the nation? Why could the disaster not be prevented? Why could criminals not be jailed? Why could the political system not be changed? We were put to shame on that day."

He asked the treasury benches, "Why was the government in power allowed to be duped?" and concluded, "The Centre didn't do its job."

In view of the fact that the Liberhan report did not find the central government led by Rao guilty, he said, "The Liberhan report is not comprehensive, it is marginally political."

Recalling the debate in the Lok Sabha before the demolition in 1992, he said, "I was too innocent to believe the BJP leaders then who assured the House that they do not want the demolition but only a shift of the structure."

He said he had visited the site soon after the demolition and found that the debris had been cleared.

Dasgupta said, "To my surprise, not only was the Babri masjid demolished but a make-shift temple was built the very day at the same place." He said the Liberhan report had missed this issue.

He said the Babri masjid dispute was a local one between the waqf board in Ayodhya and Sadhu Ramchandra Das. "How did a local issue become a blot on the national consciousness?" he asked.

Dasgupta went into the timeline of the demolition and showed how slowly and steadily an entire political movement was built around the dispute. In 1982, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave a call for the Ram Janambhoomi movement, and in 1984 the Bajrang Dal was created, in 1989 the BJP passed a resolution to support the Ram Janamhoomi movement and made it a political movement.

He said two phrases were coined -- 'minority appeasement' and 'pseudo-secularism' -- to launch the political movement.

He said it was intriguing why, when in 1986 a local court in Faizabad ordered theunlocking' of the masjid's door, the government didn't go in appeal to a higher court.

He said the demolition of the Babri masjid was 'a failure of the central government, failure of the Supreme Court, failure of the law-enforcing agencies and failure of the nation.'

"India's secular image is more important than any other constitutional propriety," Dasgupta said.

"I am not seeking punitive action against those political leaders who took part in it. I want their political isolation," Dasgupta told the Lok Sabha.

While BJP members who were under attack tried to disturb Dasgupta's forceful and emotive speech, Congress president Sonia Gandhi led her party-men by thumping the benches when Dasgupta said, "It is the same philosophy of political intolerance, it is the same philosophy of political hatred, it is the same fundamentalist philosophy that has come to this House, also."

He said it is just not possible that senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were not aware of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's design to demolish the masjid, adding that he, however, still 'respects' Vajpayee.

He challenged the BJP leaders to 'own up' the act of demolition by showing political courage and apologise to the nation.

He insisted that the masjid's demolition was not a 'spontaneous expression of vandalism,' but the result of 'meticulous planning with ulterior political motives.'

"Unfortunately, after the demolition, the fundamentalist party's electoral fortunes improved. This is the real danger," Dasgupta cautioned.

"We must look back to look forward. We must have a critical analysis of what made the Babri masjid fall. What was the role of the political parties, what was the role of the central government?"

"We should look back to look forward and protect the country's secular image," Dasgupta reiterated.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi