The Liberhan Commission was commissioned by the then Congress government ten days after the Babri Masjid demolition to investigate the events that led to it and those responsible for it. The Commission report came down hard on the ‘Sangh Parivar’ and after it was finally submitted to the government seventeen years later, the Congress used it to go hammer and tongs at the BJP. The BJP, for its part, dubbed it more of a political report than anything else.
While the report overwhelmingly is focused on the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, and it was loved by the intellectuals and the Congress for it, it does suffer from some glaring inconsistencies. While Liberhan accurately describes certain matters, on other issues, he was completely wrong. Broadly speaking, although he was wrong about basically everything regarding historical events, he occasionally got it correct about matters of pre-Independence India while being horribly wrong about Independent India on a consistent basis.
Here are ten such statements from the Liberhan Commission report.
1. “The constant bitterness between the two communities is a historically accepted and recorded fact. This Hindu-Muslim discord may possibly have been the catalyst for the birth of Hindu nationalism, Hindutva, cultural nationalism, Hindu Rashtra and for the organisation of divergent groups of Hindus within the Hindu society.”
Unlike liberals of today, Liberhan admits that there has been continuous strife between the Hindu and Muslim communities. He also notes that the discord between the two communities may have contributed to the rise of Hindutva. He is only partly right in his observations. Hindutva was fueled primarily by the rise of nation-states around the world while its nature was determined by the existing relationships between various religious communities.
2. “There was Hindu-Muslim divide before the partition of the country. Bitterness between the two communities was constant and persistent from times immemorial. This divide escalated steadily and peaked at the time of the partition of the country in 1947 when Pakistan was carved out of India. Pakistan declared and constituted itself as an Islamic state. India chose to declare herself a secular, multi-religious, multi-regional and multicultural state. The partition resulted in an unruly exchange of populations, which left a sad scar on the psyche of a large section of society in the country that persists till day in spite of a half a century having gone by.”
Liberhan further admits rather candidly what liberals of today seek to consistently deny. The Hindu and Muslim communities were not divided by the British, they have always been divided and the differences, as Liberhan says himself, have existed ‘from times immemorial’.
Furthermore, Liberhan also notes that the scars of partition persist in our country to this day. It’s only natural that it persists since the partition was a monumental event in Indian history. It won’t be farfetched to assert that it was a cataclysmic event in history and the memories of such events will not ever fade.
3. “The post partition leadership, inspite of its undisputed credibility and sincerity, failed to root out communalism and the division on the basis of casteism, religionalism, regionalism etc. which are the sources of communalism. The post-partition leaders did make substantive effort to root out communalism or reduce the cleavage between Hindus and Muslims.”
4. “Ayodhya is accepted in popular Hindu tradition as the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama and is therefore regarded as a holy and historical city. There is a plethora of ancient treatises, travelogues and histories written by innumerable authors about Ayodhya and its culture. The prominent mention of Ayodhya in the much venerated holy Hindu text, Ramayana, lends itself to a very significant place for this place in the Hindu perception.”
While Leftist historians have consistently sought to deny the significance of Ayodhya to the Hindu community, even Liberhan, who has been extremely critical of Hindu politics, admits that Ayodhya holds a ‘very significant place’ in the heart of the Hindu community. This is a fact that Leftist historians have often sought to deny altogether. They claim that reverence for Ayodhya is a modern development. But as we can see, even Liberhan admits that Ayodhya gains its significance from the Ramayana itself.
5. “Muslim members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) of UP met the Chief Minister to request a relocking of the site. It is noteworthy that no member of the Muslim community from Ayodhya was a member of the Babri Masjid Action Committee or any other committee protesting the opening of locks at the disputed structure. Sultan Shahabuddin Owaisi, a member of parliament from Hyderabad challenged the opening of locks and along with some others became a forerunner for taking on the Hindu organisations.”
The Babri Masjid Action Committee was set up after the gates of the Babri Masjid were opened to allow Hindus to worship at the place. It is notable that not a single Muslim from Ayodhya was a member of the Committee then.
6. “Muslims variously protested between 1st of January to the 30th of March 1987. Apart from giving calls for, boycotting Republic Day (which call was later withdrawn) bandhs were observed and a public rally held at Boat Club in Delhi. Public threats of violence were made by personalities no less than the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, Shahabuddin and Suleiman Sait etc.”
Liberals often give a free pass to the toxic leaders from the Muslim community but here we can see that leaders as prominent as the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid gave public threats of violence in 1987. The Shahabuddin mentioned here is presumably Sultan Shahabuddin Owaisi as mentioned in quote #5. However, it could also be Syed Shahabuddin, another prominent Muslim leader, the report doesn’t clarify. Significantly enough, calls were made to even boycott the Republic Day celebrations, which was withdrawn later.
7. “There have been suggestions that the arms of local police and PAC were withdrawn and only the personnel trusted by VP Singh were posted. That 90% of the police personnel supported the Karsevaks , and in fact the police opened the locks at the gates; that the CRPF and BSF Jawans refused to open fire despite direct orders; guns were snatched from the Jawans of 61st and 68th Battalions. No evidence to this effect was produced before the Commission. The only remote support for the suggestion is drawn from the text of a book “Karseva Se Karseva Tali by a journalist wherein it was recorded that the BSF Commandant ordered his men to commence firing, which was defied.”
8. “RSS is a tightly structured organization with BJP as its political wing. They are extraordinary men, whose ability has been continuously underestimated.”
While the first part of the quote can be disputed, the second part cannot. Liberals often deny the capabilities of the leadership and claim that they merely use public discontent to fuel their political ambitions. However, they ought to heed Liberhan’s conclusions in this regard.
9. “Except for the self-serving hyperbole, the Ayodhya campaign did not enjoy the willing and voluntary support of the common person, even of the average Hindu… While traditionally, the word movement has been used to denote a collective desire of the public to secure a particular result, the Ayodhya campaign never achieved proportions even close to those levels. The use of the word movement notwithstanding, the Ayodhya episode was never accompanied by a public movement.”
This, perhaps, is the biggest reason why liberals ought to have taken the conclusions reached by Liberhan a little less seriously. It is insanity to deny that the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement was the greatest political movement in Independent India. No movement has had more of an impact in the political landscape of the country.
Given the huge crowd that the movement managed to attract and the massive ramifications it had, it shows the extent to which Liberhan’s eyes were clouded by his biases. Everyone knows that the movement had such huge public support that it incapacitated the machinery of the secular state on several occasions. Therefore, to claim that the ‘Ayodhya episode was never accompanied by a public movement’ shows that other conclusions reached by Liberhan on critical issues of the movement shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
10. “The reporting of events in 1992 was possibly not as tactful and mature as it could have been. In reporting, some sections of the media overshot the restraints of common place prudence and were perceived as inimical to one or the other sides to the artificial dispute which had taken the country’s polity by storm. The close patronage of certain newspapers, journals and electronic media by one or the other interest groups tended to expose them to allegations of malice and bias against the others.”
The media never likes to be told about its own follies. Thus, it’s quite natural that these observations on the conduct of the media were entirely ignored. However, it’s a fact that remains true to this day. The media hasn’t fared very well while reporting on matters of national significance.
Having said that, given the biases of Liberhan, it appears as though he would have preferred that the media censored certain crucial facts so as to contain the movement and the episode which, in his own words, “was never accompanied by a public movement”.