Supporters of the Ram temple construction movement display tridents in 2002 at Ayodhya.
Supporters of the Ram temple construction movement display tridents in 2002 at Ayodhya.| Sondeep Shankar/Getty Images
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A former reporter of RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya’ says he accompanied Singhal and three others in the run-up to Babri demolition

Ashok Singhal, the late Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief who played a key role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, reached Ayodhya disguised as a reporter in the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition, reveals a journalist who accompanied him in the journey.

Singhal passed away after a prolonged illness in 2015.

The Uttar Pradesh police and intelligence agencies were trying to track Singhal down after the Mulayam Singh Yadav government declared him a persona non-grata in the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition.

Singhal was part of a team that embarked on a train journey to Ayodhya, Subhash Chandra Singh, a former special correspondent of Panchjanya, the RSS mouthpiece, told ThePrint.

He described how he, along with Singhal, police officer-turned-politician Shrish Chandra Dikshit and Panchjanya editor Bhanu Pratap Shukla had undertaken the trip in the guise of reporters.

Singh, however, trashed rumours about Singhal being disguised as an armyman to enter Ayodhya.

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“Singhal travelled in the guise of a reporter of Sadhna magazine, an RSS publication in Gujarat, whereas Dikshit was acting as a staffer of Vivek, a publication from Andhra Pradesh,” Subhash Singh told ThePrint.

All four boarded Prayag Express destined for Allahabad. Aware that police might be on a lookout for them, they booked four tickets but in separate coaches.

“Government agencies got information at New Delhi Railway station that Singhal was travelling in a train. We knew this and thus booked two seats in an AC coach and two in the sleeper class,” said Singh, who is in his late 50s.

“When the ticket examiner came, we shifted Singhalji and Dikshitji to the sleeper coach and asked him not to disturb them as they were unwell,” added Singh.

Deboarding at the Allahabad station wasn’t an option for Singhal because of police presence there. So, as per plan, he jumped out of the train when it slowed down at the outer signal.

Singhal’s house in George Town in Allahadbad was selected as the meeting point.

“But for Singhal, the real challenge was to reach home without being spotted by cops. He wrapped a safa (turban) on his head and covered his mouth with a piece of cloth while moving around,” Singh, who is associated with Yathavat magazine, said.

On the way to Ayodhya, fake IDs came to their aid. The two real journalists — Shukla and Singh — took responsibility of dealing with authorities.

29 October, 1990

The VHP had elaborate arrangements for Singhal’s journey to Ayodhya. He rode on the motorcycle of a local VHP leader, Ram Dayal.

“Singhal reaching Ayodhya became headline of every newspaper on 30 October, 1990. He reached near Digamber Akhada chanting ‘mandir wahi banayenge’. Then, someone in the crowd threw a stone, which hit Singhal on his head. He was then rushed to a hospital,” Singh recalled.

“By then kar sewaks became uncontrollable. Sant Dharamdas and a few others took hold of a bus and crashed it into the wall. This is the first step toward land reclamation for mandir,” Singh added.

The tricolour was unfurled on three tombs of the mosque even as two dozen kar sewaks entered the premises.

Singh claimed Ramsharan Srivastava, then district magistrate, let a few kar sewaks enter the masjid premises so that they could have a sense of symbolic achievement.

“To restrain others, police opened fire in which two people — Vasudev Gupts and Rajendra Pandey — died,” said Singh.

2 November, 1990

It was the day in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that saw maximum casualties as police opened fire on those approaching the disputed site, said Singh.

“Mulayam Singh was furious as he could not protect the masjid and Muslims were angry with him. Police opened fire on kar sewaks near Digamber Akhada. The CM said 28 died in police firing that day,” Singh recalled.

In 1991, Mulayam lost elections and BJP came to power.

Meanwhile, an affidavit was submitted in the Supreme Court, saying that no damage would be done to the structure of Babri mosque.

6 December, 1992

Subhas Singh who was watching the events unfold on 6 December from close quarters said prominent BJP leaders and sadhus were sitting on a stage in Ramkatha Park opposite the masjid at that time.

“A stage was erected in Ramkatha Park that had L.K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Acharya Dharmendra, Uma Bharti, Pramod Mahajan, Ramchander Paramhans on it,” recalled Singh. “Around 12, it was announced that there would only be symbolic kar sewa.”

“No one could have stopped lakhs of people moving towards the mandir. (Then CM) Kalyan Singh did not issue any firing order. People started digging the place. Around 5 pm all three domes were pulled down,” added the journalist.

Following this incident, CM Kalyan Singh had to step down.

“There is a controversy over the Babri masjid episode whether his government was dismissed or he himself resigned,” Singh said.

Singh believes Sadhvi Rithambhara and Acharya Dharmendra had provoked the crowd to demolish the mosque while other leaders requested kar sewaks not to enter the compound.

“Pramod Mahajan requested people in Marathi not to enter the mosque since an affidavit was already filed in court. Uma Bharti, as alleged, did not shout ‘masjid tod do’ slogan,” Singh narrated the story without mentioning the names of leaders who took the decision to raze the mosque.

It was around 5 pm when the Babri Masjid was demolished. Soon after Advani, Joshi and Singhal left the spot, claims Singh.

“Advani had sent his resignation as leader of the opposition from Ayodhya itself for not being able to prevent Babri from demolition,” said Singh, who was in his late 30s when the incident took place.

While Singhal stayed in Ayodhya, senior leaders left for Delhi. Some VHP leaders then came up with a strategy to establish a makeshift temple on the spot.

“The next morning, the then BSF in-charge B.M. Saraswat came and issued a warning against staying in the area, following which kar sewaks dispersed,” added Singh.

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