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Sunday 26 January 2020

Rao not alone, Rajiv, VP ‘lacked will’ to save Babri structure too

Madhav Godbole, the then home secretary, has alleged in his book that Rajiv Gandhi let the two sides turn mutually irreconcilable, VP Singh wouldn't move beyond the ordinance to transfer the plot and the land around it while PV Narasimha Rao found the Home Ministry's 'contingency plan' downright impractical

Lending credence to the perception created by the present leadership of the Congress and Muslim intelligentsia that then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao deliberately created a situation where it became difficult to save the disputed Babri Masjid from demolition, Madhav Godbole, who was the Union home secretary at the time, has claimed if there had been the political will to take action, the then prime minister would not have rejected the plan prepared by the Home Ministry before the incident, which the retired bureaucrat claims would have saved the structure. Godbole has claimed in his book on the Ayodhya land dispute that if a political initiative was taken at the prime minister’s level, the incident could have been avoided. But then, Godbole does not blame Rao alone.

Attempting to present a clear picture of the events before and after the disputed structure was demolished in the book, the former home secretary said that Rao, as prime minister, had played the most important role in this important subject. In this book titled The Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir Dilemma: An Acid Test for India’s Constitution, the author has claimed that when the disputed structure faced the risk of demolition by activists for Ram Mandir, not only Rao but also former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and VP Singh lacked the necessary will to act.

Godbole said that some practical solutions were suggested to resolve the dispute during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership before any of the parties involved in the dispute took non-negotiable stands, but no action was taken.

Rao not alone, Rajiv, VP 'lacked will' to save Babri structure too

The former home secretary said that VP Singh remained firm on his stand after the ordinance issued to handover the Babri Masjid and special area around it to the Union government.

Godbole said that in 1992, the Union Home Ministry had enacted Article 356 to prepare a “contingency plan” to take over this structure. The Cabinet note was even approved by the Law Ministry. “I submitted the contingency plan to the Cabinet secretary, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, senior advisor to the prime minister, home minister and prime minister on 4 November. It was emphasised in the plan that action should be taken well before the proposed date of commencement of the service so that a large number of karsevaks and crowd are not present at the time of action,” Godbole has written.

Further, Godbole has written that the plan advised the government that, before the action of paramilitary forces were to begin, President’s Rule under Article 356 must be imposed on the State (Uttar Pradesh). He says Rao felt that the contingency plan was not practical. The then prime minister rejected the idea and relied on the affidavit given by the State government to the Supreme Court instead.

Godbole says that the biggest flaw was of the Uttar Pradesh government, which deliberately failed to fulfil its promise of security of the structure. The retired babu holds the then Governor B Satya Narayan Reddy responsible for this.

Godbole does not stop his accusations there. He says the judiciary was responsible for the delay in passing a verdict on the ownership of the disputed land pending since 1950 while the concerned parties repeatedly requested for speedy completion of the hearing.

After the incident of demolition of the disputed structure on 6 December 1992, Godbole took voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in March 1993. He was then the Union home secretary and secretary (Justice).

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