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Journalists will be CBI’s star witnesses in Babri Masjid demolition case

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Scribes had filed at least 47 FIRs in the aftermath of the incidents of 6 December 1992. Many of them had been thrashed, and their equipment destroyed.

Lucknow: Twenty-five years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, many witnesses have died, or are untraceable. Thus, journalists who witnessed the 1992 carnage will be the Central Bureau of Investigations’ (CBI) stellar witnesses in the case against the demolition of the mosque.

“Testimonies of scribes will be the focal point of our case. We have detailed notes of many prominent journalists, including Mark Tully, which will help us reconstruct the event,” Lalit Singh, special CBI prosecutor, told ThePrint.

There was perhaps no media house that did not have a reporter in Ayodhya and Lucknow during that tense week. Journalists were thrashed, and their equipment was also destroyed, but the cameras kept rolling. The CBI has filed video evidence collected from reporters as evidence before the court.

At least 47 first information reports were filed by journalists in the aftermath of the incidents of 6 December 1992.

“Witnesses may have died and those who are alive may not fully recollect, but the video evidence cannot be doubted. Footage of speeches made by politicians, in particular, will help us establish inciting violence and conspiracy charges against them,” Singh said.

Pressure on CBI court

A CBI court in Lucknow is holding the trial, in which at least 13 senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, are facing trial, along with 47 kar sevaks, for allegedly demolishing the mosque.

In April, the Supreme Court directed that the trial must be concluded in two years without adjournments, and that the special judge will not be transferred till the trial is over. A month later, additional district magistrate S.K. Yadav, special judge for the ‘Ayodhya Prakaran’ since 2014, began day-to-day hearings in the case.

The judge hears other civil disputes throughout the day, but cases related to the Ayodhya dispute remain priority.

Two witnesses are scheduled for deposition for each day, but on most days, neither of the witnesses turn up. The CBI has 895 witnesses listed, but has managed to explore only 400. Some 225 witnesses from all over the country have deposed since the trial began in 1994.

But the CBI only expects 300 witnesses to depose in its favour.

Many involved in the case feel that the Supreme Court’s two-year timeline is not feasible for completing the trial in such a difficult case. After the statements of the CBI’s 895 witnesses are recorded, the defence will bring its own set of witnesses, and many of the prosecution witnesses will be cross-examined, after which the arguments will begin.

“We will seek an extension as we come close to the deadline. Our endeavour is, of course, to adhere to the timeline, but it is not a realistic time-frame,” another prosecutor said.

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