On Shaurya Diwas, as it happens every year, the question of the role of PM Narasimha Rao in the demolition of Babri Masjid resurfaced, but the Left and Right both are incorrect on it. The Right in the recent years has started believing that Rao was performing Puja when Babri was being demolished, while Left has maintained it since 1992 that Rao was the mute spectator of an event which permanently destroyed the ‘secular’ fabric of India and whipped up ‘communalism’. Apparently, neither of these is true which I’ll try to illustrate.
First, the claim of whether Rao was performing Puja between 12 PM and 2 PM when he was unreachable to politicians such as Jairam Ramesh and Arjun Singh who tried connecting to Rao. This myth is based on the assertion of Kuldip Nayyar who claimed that he was apprised about it by Madhu Limaye. Unfortunately, this is not true as Madhu Limaye had no knowledge of what was happening in PM’s residence. Left had a different version which claims that Rao was sleeping. Vinay Sitapati in the biography of Rao has shown that Rao was neither sleeping nor performing Puja. During the hours when Hindus were reclaiming Ayodhya, Rao was in conversation with Naresh Chandra (His special advisor), Godbole (Home secretary), Vaidya (IB Chief) and others monitoring the developing situation.
The obvious question is, if Rao was monitoring the situation, why couldn’t he act? The reason is straightforward – Rao had no option. The central government has no control over either the state police nor paramilitary forces unless President Rule is imposed. Even if Rao decided to impose President Rule, it would have taken at least couple of hours to call the cabinet for it and get the decision approved. Meanwhile, the action was over by 2:30 PM while had begun after noon. But, another precarious question was even if he imposed President rule and asked paramilitary forces to mobilize, the force couldn’t have achieved anything amongst the sea of more than 2 lakhs people unless there was violence of unimaginable proportion.
We also have to consider Rao’s political understanding here. Unlike Mulayam, Rao was concerned about dwindling popularity of Congress amongst the Hindu voters. He had written later that the Congress suppressed every visible expression of Hinduness by terming it non-secular. Rao was no anglicized elite, nor a Marxist though he had very strong socialist leaning. He was a practicing Hindu to the extent that he had decided to head an ashram in 1990 while contemplating his retirement from politics. He had excellent relationship with the Honourable Sringeri Shankaracharya and despised the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyer.
But did Rao really want to fall Babri Masjid? The unequivocal answer based on what’s available publicly is no. Rao was given the option of dismissing Kalyan Singh government in November after the announcement of Kar Seva on December 6. But Rao didn’t agree to it as he couldn’t invoke Article 356 in the anticipation, which would have later been politically unforgiving and legally untenable. Instead of it, Rao met BJP leaders, VHP leaders, RSS leaders, heads of many monastic orders etc. in the month of November to secure an assurance that the mosque will remain unscarred on December 6.
In the last bid to protect Babri Masjid constitutionally, Rao’s government filed for the receivership of the site in November end in Supreme Court which was later dismissed by the court as UP government assured the apex court that mosque will be protected. So, though Rao was sympathetic to Hindu concerns due to his own background, he can only be praised or blamed for not invoking Article 356 to impose the President Rule. The real hero was Kalyan Singh who had given written orders that irrespective of the circumstances, firing on Kar Sevaks won’t be allowed. The Hindus will remember the name of Kalyan Singh for centuries for his role in paving the path for the reclamation of Ayodhya.
1. Half-Lion: How P V Narasimha Rao Transformed India by Vinay Sitapati