New Delhi: Inability to prevent the demolition of Babri Mosque was one of the biggest failures of then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, President Pranab Mukherjee writes in the second part of his memoirs released on Thursday, also calling it an act that destroyed India's image as a pluralistic nation.
"The inability to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid was one of P.V.(Narasimha Rao)'s biggest failures. He should have entrusted the task of tough negotiations with other political parties to a more senior and seasoned politician familiar with politics in UP - like N.D. Tiwari," Mukherjee says in "The Turbulent Years, 1980-1996", released by Vice President M. Hamid Ansari at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
He also questioned the decision of opening the site for prayers, a decision taken by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"The opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple site on 1 February 1986 was perhaps another error of judgement. People felt these actions could have been avoided."
Mukherjee writes that matters took a "dramatic turn after the fall of the Babri Masjid".
"Sitaram Kesri created a scene, collapsing into tears and disrupting a Cabinet meeting at which I was present. I had to tell him, 'There is no reason to be melodramatic. All of you were members of the Cabinet and some of you were members of the CCPA. All decisions were taken in the meetings of the Cabinet and CCPA. Responsibility is collective; the onus cannot only be on the Prime Minister or Home Minister'."
"Later, in a private meeting with P.V., I did not mince words.
"I burst out, 'Was there no one who advised you of the dangers? Did you not understand the global repercussions of any damage to the Babri Masjid? At least now take concrete steps to quell communal tensions and assuage the feelings of Muslims through affirmative action'," Mukherjee writes.
"P.V. looked at me as I said this, and in his characteristic style did not let any emotion cross his face. But I had known and worked with him for several decades. I did not need to read his face. I could feel his sadness and disappointment. I have often wondered later if it was this outburst of mine which finally led to the call I received from him on 17 January 1993, inviting me to join the Cabinet."
Mukherjee calls the demolition an act of "absolute perfidy, which should make all Indians hang their heads in shame".
"It was the senseless, wanton destruction of a religious structure, purely to serve political ends. It deeply wounded the sentiments of the Muslim community in India and abroad. It destroyed India's image as a tolerant, pluralistic nation..." the president writes.
"In fact, the foreign minister of an important Islamic country later pointed out to me that such damage had not been inflicted on a mosque even in Jerusalem, which has seen religious conflicts for centuries."