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
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
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
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.