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As Congress tries to paint Rajiv Gandhi as the catalyst in reclamation of Ram Janmabhoomi, book by close friend shatters that myth: Here are the details

In a chapter titled, ‘Unravelling of the Indian Tapestry’, Habibullah reveals what had transpired between Rajiv Gandhi, his cousin Arun Nehru and Vir Bahadur Singh over the unlocking of the disputed structure at the Ramjanmabhoomi site.

After 500 years of struggle, Hindus of India finally reclaimed their right to the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya. The Congress, which until now, refused to even acknowledge the very existence of Lord Ram, had jumped to take the credit for the Ram Mandir. From party bigwigs like Kamal Nath to Delhi Youth Congress, all claimed that it was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who had ‘opened the doors of Ram Mandir’.

However, a book was written by one of Rajiv Gandhi’s close friend and associate, Wajahat Habibullah, likely to come out in October this year, reportedly busts the Congress’ bubble, as the tell-all memoir claims that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was not even aware of the unlocking of the disputed structure at the Ramjanmabhoomi site in February 1986.

Rajiv Gandhi had denied having any prior knowledge of the unlocking: Habibullah’s book

Habibullah, IAS from the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, was in Rajiv Gandhi’s PMO then. As per excerpts published in India Today, Habibullah, in his memoir- ‘My Years With Rajiv Gandhi: Triumph and Tragedy’, has written that when he had asked Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister, whether he was involved in the decisions leading up to the unlocking of the disputed structure at Ramjanmabhoomi site in February 1986, Rajiv Gandhi has instantaneously replied with a no.

No Government has any business to interfere in matters like the determination of the functioning of places of worship. I knew nothing of this development until I was told of it after the orders had been passed and executed,” Rajiv Gandhi was quoted as telling the author.

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Taken aback by the late Prime Minister’s reply, Habibullah recollects questioning Rajiv Gandhi furthers: “But, sir, you were the Prime Minister”. To this, the Congress leader had replied, “I was indeed. Yet I had not been informed of this action, and have asked Vir Bahadur Singh (then chief minister of UP, under whose watch, and as rumoured, under whose instructions the magistrate had taken this fateful, or shall I call it fatal decision) to explain. I suspect it was Arun (Nehru) and Fotedar (Makhan Lal) who were responsible, but I am having this verified. If that is true I will have to consider action.”

The conversation, according to the author, took place in September 1986, when he accompanied the then PM in his Boeing while flying to the drought-hit Gujarat.

It is pertinent to note that a local court in Faizabad, on February 1, 1986, had vacated a stay order passed in 1949 that status quo should be maintained at the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site.

Habibullah had served as the chief executive at Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, the Union textile secretary, became India’s first chief information commissioner, chairman of the National Minorities Commission and government interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, goes on to make several startling revelations in his memoir.

The India Today report by Rasheed Kidwai further states that in a chapter titled, ‘Unravelling of the Indian Tapestry’, Habibullah reveals what had transpired between Rajiv Gandhi, his cousin Arun Nehru and Vir Bahadur Singh over the unlocking of the disputed structure at the Ramjanmabhoomi site. 

He writes that Rajiv Gandhi had acted against cousin Arun Nehru for the Ramjanmabhoomi ‘indiscretion’ and dropped him as the Minister of State for Internal Security in November 1986. Arun Nehru, despite his unceremonious exit, had reportedly displayed little acrimony and continued his work as a regular MP and family man till he regrouped with VP Singh against Rajiv Gandhi in July 1987.

Arun Nehru was responsible for the unlocking, not Rajiv Gandhi, says book

“Any instructions received by Vir Bahadur Singh (who incidentally owed Arun Nehru his position) from Arun Nehru, would be construed by the CM to have been the orders of the Prime Minister. There had been no discussion on any matter concerning the Masjid in the ongoing files of PMO. This I knew since I was the officer dealing with communal relations,” writes Habibullah as per the report. The quote asserts how Rajiv Gandhi, despite being the PM, was completely ignorant of the developments in Ayodhya.

In the book, Habibullah has reportedly also mentioned how the ‘removal of locks’ was mostly Arun Nehru’s work and later, when Rajiv Gandhi spoke to Vir Bahadur Singh and came to know that the UP CM had probably misunderstood Arun Nehru’s words as Rajiv Gandhi’s words in the matter, Singh had avoided meeting Arun Nehru.

As per the India Today report, Habibullah has written that it was a coincidence and an inadvertent error on his part that made him realise that Arun Nehru had probably orchestrated the opening of locks by making the UP CM believe that the order came from Rajiv Gandhi himself.

Habibullah, who had studied with Rajiv Gandhi in Doon School as well, writes that according to him, Rajiv Gandhi also found it difficult to communicate with his cousin Arun Nehru.

As per the report, Habibullah has also written that he had asked Rajiv Gandhi about how Congress can even think that the opening of the locks could give them any benefit (of Hindu votes), because, as per him, most of Congress was ‘secular’ and they cannot exploit the ‘development’ to its maximum use, and eventually it will be the right-wing which will hijack the “outcome”.

“I can understand that since the removal of the locks was not going to change the status quo in any way, but would earn the support of sections of the Hindu community for your party, was it not realised that such a benefit could only be limited since the core of the Congress remained secular and the development could not be exploited to its maximum since it would be the extreme right-wing that would hijack the outcome, which it could trumpet as its triumph?

The Congress leader did not want Ram Mandir dispute to be settled

Interestingly, one such other upcoming book by Roderick Matthews had also revealed Congress’ vile intentions in dealing with Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. It had laid bare how Congress party under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi did not want Ram Mandir dispute to be settled and had withdrawn support after the then PM Chandra Shekhar had almost resolved the age-old issue.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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