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Centre bags Babri dilemma

Wednesday, July 01, 2009 02:02:04 PM, Radhika Ramaseshan, The Telegraph

 

Babri probe panel submits report, 17 years after demolition: Seventeen years and 48 extensions later, the Liberhan Commission probing the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya Tuesday submitted its report to...Read Full

Table Liberhan report in parliament: Babri Masjid Action Committee

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New Delhi: The Centre is likely to keep the Liberhan report on the Babri Masjid demolition ticking away like a time bomb in its vaults for at least a while.

 

The report was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by a namesake and former judge, Manmohan Singh Liberhan, this morning.

 

With Parliament scheduled to open on July 2, the government sought to keep the sensitive report’s contents under wraps. But political quarters were immediately abuzz over possible implications.

 

The Congress remained broadly circumspect, not wanting to hand the demoralised BJP an opportunity to exploit temple-related sentiments and acquire a fresh lease of life. The BJP savoured prospects of a debatable revival of “Hindu nationalism” with a barely concealed sense of expectation.

 

Muslim organisations, meanwhile, called upon the government “not to play politics” with the report and reveal findings at the earliest.

But highly placed sources indicated that the government would take its time over Justice Liberhan’s findings while it mulled over political and social pros and cons. The sources said the Prime Minister handed over the work to his principal secretary, T.K.A. Nair, who placed it in a sealed bag.

 

Even if the report, which took 17 years and 48 extensions before being presented, implicates or nails key protagonists of the event like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Ashok Singhal, nothing “drastic or precipitate” would immediately be done. Not until the general budget is passed during the forthcoming session at any rate.

 

“The timing is bad. The BJP has got an issue but we will not like the shadow of Ayodhya to mar the budget session, especially when the BJP has assured us of co-operation,” a cabinet minister said.

 

Parliament apart, the Congress has already begun weighing the long-term implications of reviving the “Ayodhya card” with history as its philosopher and guide. Sources recalled how Rajiv Gandhi’s “ill-advised” forays to do a BJP on the BJP in Ayodhya ruined the Congress’s supremacy in the heartland and took away its Hindu and Muslim votes even in its western strongholds like Maharashtra where the Shiv Sena became a force to reckon with.

 

“On matters fraught with communal ramifications, we should be extremely circumspect,” a source said.

 

The Congress also had to contend with the fact that it was in power at the Centre when the mosque was breached. The then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao was lambasted for doing nothing for the eight hours or so that RSS, VHP and BJP “kar sevaks” ran amok and brought the mosque down.

 

Members of the Babri Masjid Action Committee went on record to tell journalists then that while Rao’s minister of state of home, the late P.R. Kumaramangalam, answered their initial calls, neither he nor Rao was available thereafter.

 

With a BJP government in Lucknow, Muslim leaders saw Delhi as their only lifeline. Kumaramangalam later joined the BJP and became a cabinet minister when it was in power. “There was transgression on the Centre’s part,” a Congress functionary admitted.

 

Congress sources were not even sure if the government would place the report — reportedly running into over 1,000 pages — on the table of the House in the impending session.

 

“The processing of such a voluminous work will take time. It will be scrutinised. Inconsistencies, if any, will have to be identified. A summary will have to be written. Most important, an action taken report (ATR) will have to be readied simultaneously,” a source said.

Parliamentary rules require a report and an ATR to be placed together.

 

Although a Congress minister who counts himself as a “die-hard secularist” quipped that “at last Liberhan has liberated our party”, the considered view in the party was that the “politics” intertwined in the Ayodhya chapter will have to be “read, re-read and carefully perused” before a “plan of action” was drawn.

 

P. Chidambaram, the home minister who accompanied Justice Liberhan when he went to present the report to the Prime Minister, confirmed the Centre was in no rush with the report.

 

He told some journalists that the law required the report and the ATR to be tabled within six months, which effectively gives the government time until the winter session. “So there is plenty of time. I have not even read the report,” he said.

 

 

 

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