File photo of Shashi Tharoor | S Sahani/The India Today Group/Getty Images
File photo of Shashi Tharoor | S Sahani/The India Today Group/Getty Images
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If Advani was contrite after 1992, he should have worked towards resolving the temple issue, especially as the NDA-I strongman.

Shashi Tharoor, that eloquent author and consummate politician, tied himself up in knots when he more or less gave a clean chit to the two tallest leaders of the BJP in the last four decades – L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee – in the Babri-Ayodhya issue.

He said that most good Hindus would not want the Ram Mandir to be built by demolishing another place of worship. He quoted Advani as saying that the day of the Babri Masjid demolition was the saddest day of his life, and that Vajpayee was always amenable to a compromise on the construction of the temple. Both, according to him, condemned the act of demolition.

As a civil servant-(even an international civil servant) turned-politician, Shashi Tharoor can always find grounds for being generous to his fellow politicians. But not me, a dyed-in-the-wool Indian civil servant, who is always sceptical of the underlying motivations of politicians and looks for the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip whenever they say something in public.


Also read: Yogi & Korean first lady’s Ayodhya Diwali: Religious tourism or fanning Ram Mandir demand?


I was a District Magistrate in Maharashtra and later posted in Delhi during those years, and was in the thick of the events leading up to the Babri Masjid saga Part-I, which culminated with the arrest of Advani in Bihar and the foiling of karsevaks’ efforts to demolish the mosque in October 1990. I can unequivocally state that the final demolition in 1992 was the successful denouement of the six-year campaign, which began with Rajiv Gandhi’s ill-conceived decision to allow the unlocking of the temple and picked up tempo with the Rath Yatra led by Advani.

Through 1989, the police force and the magistracy in my district (and all over Maharashtra) were on their toes as the Vishva Hindu Parishad, supported by the BJP and the Shiv Sena, upped the ante on the shilanyas in Ayodhya and the transport of consecrated bricks by karsevaks to the disputed site at Ayodhya. The BJP was then the weaker force in the alliance and relied on their Shiv Sena brethren to take to the streets.

The success of the alliance in entering the Lok Sabha in 1989 and making significant inroads into the Maharashtra state assembly in 1990 gave their efforts a shot in the arm, as witnessed in the post-Babri Masjid horrors in Mumbai.

Lalu Prasad Yadav’s arrest of Advani and the strong-arm response of Mulayam Singh Yadav quelled the Rath Yatra movement in 1990, with the BJP withdrawing its support to the V.P. Singh government and reserving its ammunition for a future date.

Historians will need to assess whether the “Rath Yatra” of Advani was a response to the Mandal move of V.P. Singh or whether, sooner or later, a move on the Mandir was inevitable, given that the BJP had improved its Lok Sabha tally from an abysmal 2 in 1984 to 85 in 1989 and was looking at the number one spot in Delhi.


Also read: BJP will hand Ayodhya victim card to every Hindu voter ahead of 2019 elections


Advani should have taken a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi’s book, who acknowledged his responsibility and called off the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1922 after the Chauri Chaura incident. If Advani was really contrite after 1992, he ought to have invested all his energies in resolving the temple issue, especially as the NDA-I strongman. Alternatively, he should have withdrawn from political life, admitting that he had failed in convincing the temple supporters to reach a mutually acceptable compromise with their brethren from the other religion. The same could be said of the Advani-Vajpayee response to Gujarat 2002: Advani lent tacit support to the incumbent chief minister and Vajpayee failed to enforce ‘Raj Dharma’.

The two key tenets of a healthy liberal democracy are respect (indeed, reverence) for the rule of law and decision-making based on consensus. The Uttar Pradesh government of 1992 and its political wing gave short shrift to both the principles. While assuring the Supreme Court that it would make all efforts to maintain status quo, the UP government presided over the demolition of the mosque, aided by a pusillanimous Congress government at the Centre. No meaningful proposals were put forward to assuage the hurt felt by the largest minority community in India, which saw the social contract, evolved between 1947 and 1950 (in sharp contradistinction to our immediate western neighbour), being ripped apart.

UP’s chief minister in 1992 Kalyan Singh had the dubious distinction of being indicted by the Supreme Court for contempt of court. That he is today the Governor of an important state is a telling commentary on our political morality.


Also read: A journalist recounts helping prime accused in Babri Masjid demolition sneak into Ayodhya


The same political party that has orchestrated opposition to the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple, despite a clear Supreme Court order, is hell-bent on an early order from the Supreme Court for construction of the Ram Mandir. How they presume that the Supreme Court will necessarily rule in their favour is a cause for wonder. What is a greater cause for concern is that after a quarter century, religious groups in UP and elsewhere are engaging in muscular posturing for an early resolution to the issue. The UP government is naturally favouring the majority community, with no apparent intention to address the concerns of the minority community.

George Santayana famously observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We can only hope and pray that a spirit of generosity and sanity will prevail in these politically-charged times. The stakes are too high for short-sighted moves that may tear apart the social fabric and imperil the democratic legacy of this nation.

The author is a former civil servant.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Bang on, Advani was the architect and executor of that demolition and author is absolutely right that if he really had a moment of repentance then he would have worked towards an out of court settlement. But probably he was too starry eyed of the possibility of his priministership that even if he had an iota of repentance it was drowned in his ambition.

  2. SHASHI THAROOR and his supporters should also read Inside exclusive details in OUTLOOK HIND issues ( around 2006-2008 ) when we published all facts , records including video records of Advani and Vajpayee speech in Lucknow before demolishing disputed structure ( as claimed by them — AREA KO SAMATAL KARNA HAI . Also don’t forget who was Home Ministert and Deputy Prime Minister during 2002 of Gujarat riots and also guiding STATE GOVERNMENT

  3. Majority of Indians attach their identity to the Sanatan Dharma which is called Hindu Dharma also. From time immemorial India had varied culture but religious identity and faith was one. Ramayana, Mahabharata and Vedas depicts one faith. When invaders succeeded to conquer Indian territory, the first thing they did was to destroy our symbols of faith, cultural identity and intelligentsia. They imposed their religion through force and violence and made us slave. When British left and freed the country, Islamic leaders said they can not coexist with non Islamic population and that Islam is different Nationality. Few Indian majority leaders still governed by Non violence and secularism agreed to divide the Nation based on Islamic Population. Even after division a large chunk of Islamic population retained in India. Then onward secularism became synonymous to Muslim appeasement.
    A self respecting citizen with pride when reads the history to know how our places of worship were desecrated by barbaric invaders and demolished. Lacs of population butchered and intimidated, natural outcome is anguish.
    We are now in free India we are reminded of this fact by such structures like Babari Masjid remains and failure to reconstruct Ram Mandir, every one feels bad. One party which governed this country for so long taught us secularism means suppressing majority feeling for appeasement of others.
    Our so called intellectuals should work to convince every citizen that injustice even done in past must be corrected through consensus so as to restore prestige of majority population of land and not to give chance to politicians to take undue advantage.
    Courts and constitution are made by People and are subject to review and corrections. Judiciary is also made of people which may at times reflect their own views. A balance approach is required where every one of us detach ourselves from history which brings us in Low light and reminds us of bleak past. New identity will be common Indian identity, cultural nationalism is not a wrong word.

  4. One wonders if Tharoor has NOW taken to saying things that will directly attract the attention of Rahul and others who matter; much in the manner of Divya Spandana aka Ramya, and some others, who also come up with some startling statements from time to time. Perhaps, Congress now has many who have been sidelined and need such props to climb again into reckoning.

  5. “The same could be said of the Advani-Vajpayee response to Gujarat 2002: Advani lent tacit support to the incumbent chief minister and Vajpayee failed to enforce ‘Raj Dharma’.”

    Ramani Venkatesan has hit the nail on its head. The above quote from this article, in my opinion, is why LK Advani cannot be given a clean chit.

    If Modi government was dismissed over Gujarat riots as Atal ji wanted, Narendra Modi would have slipped back into oblivion from where he had emerged. So indirectly — Babri mosque is only one episode — LK Advani is responsible for all the turmoil in Indian society that has happened after installation of Modi government at the centre.

  6. It is nice to see an ex-civil servant with clarity of thought on this issue and sharing his experience. He is right that Tharoor cannot be complimented on giving a free pass to Advani for his actions. Today, with Hindu extremists being in power, Tharoor probably feels that even a masjid-demolisher like Advani is a moderate!

    • extremist
      /ɪkˈstriːmɪst,ɛkˈstriːmɪst/
      nounDEROGATORY
      a person who holds extreme political or religious views, especially one who advocates illegal, violent, or other extreme action.

      Choose words as carefully as you care for the minorities who demolished what not since their rule which was particularly HINDU,SANATANA DHARMA. Yes, advani is not a moderate. Hell has not broken because of it. It’s people like you who create a divide between any. Your pseudo liberal thought won’t wipe out popular thought on Extremism. What HINDU terror you have observed in your life for that sake ? Don’t Tell me Gau rakshak Kahaani.

  7. Kudos to Ramani for having the courage to speak the truth. In these times there are few who are willing to stick their neck out. If only there were more like Ramani, most sensitive issues could be resolved peacefully, and the nation would be the better for it.

  8. The author’s comment “generosity and sanity must prevail” does sadly lacks deep thinking and impartiality. This sermon is certainly for those constituting majority population as has been followed for long by the so- called progressive thinkers. This state of affairs being lop- sided could not become a part of public etiquette and social behaviour.It was bound to collapse at some point of time .And why not? After all our civilization has been profusely wounded by Islamic violence that has left plenty of blood stained scars in every nook and corner of India.Babri was one such scars which was destined to be demolished one day, if not in 1992 then some other day or year.Even if Advani was principal perpetrator though he is certainly not, heaven has not fallen. I need not elaborate mediveal history and its imperative repercussions because if a Nuclear Scientist like me , knows something, a former civil servant will certainly be aware much more.Anyway, unless perfect secularism is observed, unlike the appeasement being always termed by Congress as secularism, the revengeful mind set will keep on getting intensified and thereby wrecking the nation. For all that happened Congress is covertly one of major stakeholders. Orthodox minority also can
    not escape the blame owing to their parochial outlook being displayed in day to day actions.

  9. In his nineties, Shri L K Advani is facing trial. He has a case to answer. 2. I once read of some senior leaders suggesting to him what they felt would be a fair, equitable solution to the Ayodhya dispute. He smiled cynically and said, In that case how would we fight the next election …

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