Soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 Mahant Avaidyanath, one of the accused in the criminal conspiracy to destroy the mosque, when asked about the events of that fateful day had replied sarcastically “the dhancha (disputed structure) fell down by itself”. Those of us who had been eyewitness to the crime that changed the course of Indian politics a few weeks earlier, dismissed the off-hand comment as an attempt at humour and pressed him further to which he replied the destruction was an “outpouring of emotions by the kar sevaks” who had gathered in lakhs in the tiny temple town of Ayodhya. However, 28 years later, the ‘joke’ has been turned into a reality!
By acquitting all the 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case the Special CBI Court essentially decided that no one had torn down the mosque except for a handful of ‘anti-socials’ who had infiltrated the lakhs of kar sevaks. The CBI had produced 351 witnesses and 600 pieces of evidence to prove that there had been a deep-rooted conspiracy by the RSS/BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena to tear down the 16th century mosque which had been doubling up as a temple ever since the idols of Lord Ram were surreptitiously placed inside it on the night of 22/23 December 1949. However according to the Special Court the CBI had failed to prove its case.
Mahant Avaidyanath, the spiritual ‘father’ of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and head of the Gorakhpur math before him, was one of the initial 49 heavyweights of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement who were named as accused – 17 of them, including Mahant Avaidyanath died during the trial period. Though we did not take him seriously when the Mahant said the mosque “fell down by itself,” he obviously knew something we journalists didn’t.
Along with meticulously planning the demolition of the mosque, the Sangh Parivar had also planned how they would prevent or destroy evidence of their dastardly act. The world’s media had been gathering at Ayodhya from December 1, 1992, the same time as the thousands of cadres of the Sangh and the Shiv Sena, sensing that something much bigger than a ritual kar seva was going to take place as promised by the then BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh. Surely, the Sangh cadre had not gathered in their thousands in Ayodhya from all across the country just to sing a few bhajans!
There had been two previous attempts to destroy the mosque in 1990 and 1991, but neither had seen even a fraction of the number of kar sevaks gather in the temple town. As a Special Correspondent for the Calcutta-based newspaper, The Telegraph, I had been present on both occasions, but was stunned by the mass of saffron-clad kar sevaks that had taken over Ayodhya in December 1992.
Related news: Ayodhya Mosque to be of the same size as Babri Masjid
The media was not as pliable then as it is now and the BJP not so powerful, hence it could not simply issue diktats of what to show and what not to show as it does today. In order to prevent visual evidence of the demolition being captured, the lathi and stone-wielding kar sevaks pounced on the gathered photographers and cameramen at the same time as they descended upon the besieged mosque – all to a plan. Photographers had their heads and cameras broken and rolls of film confiscated. Even then dedicated professionals who were determined to record the truth of such a tumultuous event of history, managed to sneak out rolls of film tucked away in their socks and under garments.
Scores of reporters like me were herded away to the roof of the temple overlooking the disputed site where we had a panoramic view of the mayhem let loose on the solid, three-domed mosque, but only after our handbags had been searched for any hidden cameras or film. For the next five hours we stood there and watched as thousands of kar sevaks – not a handful of anti-socials – armed with shovels, pickaxes, spades, hammers, hooks, ropes and explosives brought down the Babri Masjid one dome at a time. From the machan (watchtower) built specifically for the comfort of the VIPs of the movement like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Rajmata Scindia, Mahant Avaidyanath and more, we heard chants of “Ek dhakha aur do, Babri Masjid tod do” and “Jai Shri Ram” over the loudspeakers. We saw or heard no attempts being made by any of the leaders to stop the destruction.
Despite the hundreds of eyewitnesses, thousands of pages of newspaper articles, photographs and videos, brazen gloating by the kar sevaks and their leaders after the event – ‘no one demolished’ the Babri Masjid. In this era of post-truths, what I and millions of people around the world saw on that black Sunday was really just a figment of our imagination.