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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 8    Issue 4   1-15 July 2013

Hindu Nationalism in Post-Independence India

Minaret Research Network

Broadly speaking, Hindu nationalism is premised on the conflation and identification of nationalism with Hindu ethos and cultural traditions. Christophe Jaffrelot argues that Hindu nationalism was constructed as an ideology between the 1870s and 1920s, largely to vindicate the traditional worldview of the Hindu upper castes. This was premised on the invention of a tradition which can be described as a strategy of stigmatization and emulation. This reinvention of Hinduism was prompted by external threats, real or imaginary, posed by proselytization by Christian missionaries, and the Muslim minority.

Some of the earliest expressions of Hindu nationalism are to be found in the writings of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Aurobindo Ghose, Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak, Veer Savarkar and the ideologues of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Hindu nationalism and social reform movements in Hindu society appear to be closely intertwined. Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894) is generally regarded as the forerunner and expounder of Hindu nationalism and revivalism. Bankim emphasized that the essence of nationalism was ‘the close identification of the individual with a particular community and the differentiation of the interest of that particular community from other communities. Bankim argued that the primary reason for the subjugation of India was the lack of cohesiveness and solidarity in Indian society and the excessive other-worldliness and fatalism that are the characteristic features of Hindu society. Bankim had an ambivalent attitude towards Western culture. While he acknowledged the superiority of Western civilization in the spheres of science, technology and industry, he asserted that the East, represented preeminently by India, had a distinct superiority over the West in regard to spirituality.

Bankim argued that a ‘national character’ was built out of ‘the national religion’ and believed that the key to the transformation of Indian society lay in a regeneration of the country’s national culture based on a combination of material and spiritual values. In other words, the remedy for India’s subjugation and cultural backwardness lay not in social reform but in a fundamental reinterpretation, regeneration and revitalization of its national culture and national religion, which Bankim identified with Hinduism. He believed that the vast majority of the people of India could be united under the banner of a single national culture based on a reformed, reinterpreted Hinduism. Bankim had a virulent hostility towards Islam and Muslims. He regarded Islam as completely devoid of spiritual or ethical qualities and considered it as devious and immoral. He believed that Muslim rule brought neither material nor spiritual benefits to India but, on the contrary, it brought about emasculation and defeat for the Hindus. Bankim’s ideas inspired a large number of intellectuals and literary writers and had a profound influence on the nationalist movement. His hymn to the motherland—Vande Mataram—became the most popular patriotic song and rallying cry in mass nationalist rallies in the early decades of the 20th century. Bankim had originally composed the song in 1875, and later incorporated it in the narrative of his controversial novel Anandmath. The novel’s refrain is that the old Hindu suffered from the absence of physical prowess and the desire for self-rule, and that the new Hindu would only have conceived when he would prove himself in a final battle and would establish his superiority over Muslims, who had defeated the Hindus in the past. The Muslim is portrayed as the demonic adversary of the new Hindu. The refrain ‘kill the low Muslims’ is repeatedly invoked in Anandmath. Anandmath is suffused with the deification of the motherland, which is projected in the image of Durga, the demon-slaying goddess: ‘It is your image that we worship in all temples.’ The image of Durga is then quickly transformed into that of Kali—with a destructive, angry face. The hymn was subsequently deleted from the novel.

Vande Mataram has held great fascination for Hindu nationalists for over a century. It was repeatedly raised as a war cry during Hindu-Muslim violence in Bengal in the 1920s and 1930s. The song inspired ‘the revolutionary terrorists,’ drawn from Hindu middle classes, who worked in underground organizations and engaged in violent activities and planned assassinations. The hymn is sung in its entirety in the RSS training camps. When the BJP came to power in Delhi following the 1993 state elections, it made singing Vande Mataram mandatory in Delhi’s public schools.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Hindu nationalists became visible and prominent in the nationalist movement. Many of them conceived of the nation as a religious community, which was identified with Hindu society. The idea of the Golden Age, which became a distinctive leitmotif of Hindu nationalism, was espoused by several Hindu social reformers, including those of the Arya Samaj. Lajpat Rai declared that the “spiritual note for the present Nationalist Movement in India is entirely derived from….Vedantic thought.” Aurobindo Ghose, who subscribed to the ideology of Hindu nationalism, said in 1909: “I say that it is the Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatan Dharma….The Sanatan Dharma, that is nationalism.” Ghose wrote in Bhawani Mandir that the goddess Bhawani exhorts Hindus to be aggressive at home and abroad, ‘to create a nation, to consolidate an age, to Aryanize a world.’ Ghose and Bipin Chandra Pal edited an extremist newspaper, Bande Mataram, which propagated Hindu nationalist ideas. The paper described swaraj or self-rule as the “self-liberation of the people for the final fulfillment of the Vedantic ideal in politics.” It declared that “though the present Indian nationality is composed of many races, and the present Indian culture of more than one world civilization, yet it must be admitted that the Hindu forms its base and centre.” Bal Gangadhar Tilak said that the “common factor in Indian society is the feeling of Hindutva.” Tilak extolled the assumed superiority of the Aryan race and justified the Aryan conquest of the non-Aryan people with whom they came in contact in the wake of their migration to India. He used Hindu cultural symbols and festivals for mobilizing support for Hindu nationalism.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), popularly known as Veer Savarkar, was perhaps the most influential ideologue of Hindu nationalism in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Savarkar was a protégé of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who recommended him for a fellowship to study in England. A distinctive feature of Savarkar’s ideas on Hindu nationalism, which were propounded in his influential work Hindutva and in his speeches as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, is that he added a racist flavor to it. He defined a Hindu in the following words.

    A Hindu, then is he who feels attachment to the land that extends from the Sindhu to the Sindhu as the land of his forefathers—as his Fatherland; who inherits the blood of the great race whose first and discernible source could be traced from the Himalayan altitude to the Vedic Saptasindhus…..; and who, as a consequence of the foregoing attributes, has inherited and claims as his own the Hindu sanskriti (culture), the Hindu civilization, as represented in a common history, common heroes, a common literature, common art, a common law and a common jurisprudence, common fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments.

While defining a Hindu, Savarkar attached the greatest importance to three key elements, namely, race, territory and a commonly shared civilization. He drew a distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. While Hinduism, according to him, connotes the religious system of the Hindus, including their theology and dogma, Hindutva refers to the ‘life of a great race.’ Savarkar argued that Hindutva was the “bedrock on which an independent state could be built.”

One can scarcely fail to notice in Savarkar’s writings and speeches the calculated construction of a virile, aggressively communal Hindu self, which is intolerant of other religious traditions. Savarkar founded a secret society modeled after fascist organizations in Italy, whose members learned the techniques of bomb-making from a Russian revolutionary in Paris. A recurrent theme in Savarkar’s writings and speeches is the tyranny and aggression of Muslim rule over India and the need for revenge from Muslims for restoring national honour. He argued that it was important for Hindus to “seek retribution for the wrong done to them as a nation and as a race.” Savarkar questioned the loyalty of Muslims to the country which, according to him, stemmed from the fanatical nature of their religion. He argued that only Hindus could be true patriots, not Indian Muslims or Christians, who have their holy land in Arabia or Palestine. In his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha’s annual session held at Ahmedabad in 1937, Savarkar declared that “there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India.”

The most important source of ideological inspiration and strength for the idea of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism in post-independence India has come from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The RSS was banned in February 1948 following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The organization realized that in order to survive and function under changed circumstances it was necessary to expand its base and to reinvent itself. This was sought to be done in two ways. It established a number of smaller organizations with specific goals and objectives, which could infiltrate different segments of Hindu society and different sectors of public life and disseminate the ideology of the parent organization. These include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Sewa Bharati, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha, Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Durga Vahini. The RSS-affiliated cluster of organizations has come to be known as the Sangh Parivar. Shortly after independence, the RSS realized that its cherished dream of a Hindu nation could not possibly be translated into reality without entering into the political arena. This led to the establishment of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, founded by Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, won just three Lok Sabha seats in the first general elections in 1952. In 1980, those who were earlier associated with the Jana Sangh founded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with Atal Behari Vajpayee as its first president. The RSS and its various affiliates, especially the BJP, have frequently changed their strategies and public posturing in consonance with the exigencies of changing situations.

The core principle of Hindu nationalism is defined by the Sangh Parivar, as well as other ideologically cognate organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Shiv Sena, as Hindutva. The idea of Hindutva, which is essentially a political construct, invokes a glorious Hindu past, identifies national identity and patriotism exclusively with Hindu traditions, emphasizes ideological and cultural homogeneity and has no space for diversity and pluralism, and excludes non-Hindu minorities from the national mainstream. As a political doctrine, Hindutva espouses a masculine aggressiveness. L. K. Advani, a former deputy prime minister in the BJP-led Central government in 1998-2004, has emphatically stated that India is essentially a Hindu country and that Hindu civilization and culture form the basis of India’s national identity.

The proponents of Hindutva -- which is often camouflaged and masqueraded as ‘cultural nationalism’-- argue that the ethos and structure of the constitution do not reflect the worldview and cultural traditions of the majority Hindu population, that the notion of secularism as enshrined in the constitution is an alien and flawed idea which has no resonance with the country’s cultural legacy, and that it favours the minorities and discriminates against Hindus. In March 2000, K. S. Sudarshan, a former head of the RSS, denounced the constitution as no more than the colonial Act of 1935. In January 2000 the then BJP-led government at the Centre appointed a committee for a review and rewriting of the constitution. The project had to be abandoned in the face of a country-wide controversy and opposition.

Some scholars, notably Sumit Sarkar and Jan Breman, have noted some striking similarities between Hindu nationalism and the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Hindu nationalism got a shot in the arm with the rise of the BJP. The rise of the BJP in the past two decades has been meteoric and dramatic. In the 1984 general elections the party won just two seats in Parliament. In the 1989 elections it won 88 seats and by 1991 it managed to get 119 seats. In the 1998-99 parliamentary elections it received 26 per cent of the vote, won 183 seats and emerged as the single largest party. It formed a coalition government at the Centre in alliance with several regional parties. The BJP’s astonishing success was due to a combination of factors, including the disintegration of the Congress, an attempt to forge a sense of collective identity among Hindus along with the exclusion and othering of Muslims, buttressed by the bogey of ‘appeasement’ of Muslims by successive Congress governments, whipping up Hindu sentiments over the controversial Ramjanmabhumi issue, the mobilization of high and intermediate castes, and strategic alliances with regional political parties. The core issues in the BJP’s political agenda, including the scrapping of Article 370 of the constitution, which grants a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the demand for the enforcement of a uniform civil code, the ‘appeasement’ of minorities by Congress-led governments, the demand for the construction of a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid, insistence on the singing of the national song ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘pseudo-secularism,’ betray its deep commitment to an exclusive, ethnocentric Hindu nationalism. Thanks to the BJP’s single-minded and systematic campaign, the idea of Hindu nationalism has made inroads among educated middle classes, entrepreneurs and even a section of the Indian diaspora.

The most important source of the BJP’s strength in the past two decades has come from what it has described as the Ayodhya movement. Ayodhya has long been regarded as the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama, although historians maintain that there is no historical or archaeological evidence to show that present-day Ayodhya is the site of the capital city of the same name where Rama was born. The Babri Mosque, located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was built by Mir Baqi, a general of the Mughal emperor Babar, in 1528. In the late 18th century it was commonly believed that Ram’s birthplace was marked by a small platform or parapet close to the mosque, which was worshipped by Hindu pilgrims. In 1853-55, violent clashes between local Hindus and Muslims broke out near the site, following which the British administrators erected barriers to separate Hindu and Muslim worshippers. Muslims continued to pray within the precincts of the mosque while Hindus worshipped outside the mosque, at a site known as “Ram Chabutra” or Ram’s Parapet.

In the dead of night on December 22, 1949, a Hindu priest, Ramchandra Parmahans, entered the mosque and surreptitiously placed three idols of Ram inside the mosque. The news of the ‘miraculous’ appearance of Ram’s idols in the mosque spread like wild fire in Ayodhya as well as in the neighbouring villages and towns. The operation was carefully planned, which was attested by the fact that the next day some 5000-6000 Hindu devotees from the adjoining areas descended on Ayodhya, chanting religious songs and raising slogans. When the news reached the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s ears, he immediately sent instructions to Govind Ballabh Pant, the chief minister of the United Provinces, to get the idols removed. Pant sent orders to the District Magistrate, K. K. Nair, to remove the idols, but Nair refused to carry out the orders. He was sacked, and several people, including members of Ayodhya’s Hindu Sabha, were arrested. Nair later joined the Jana Sangh and was elected an MLA in 1965 and as a Member of Parliament on a Jana Sangh ticket in 1967. On December 29 the mosque was locked and Priya Datt Ram was appointed receiver of the site and allowed to perform puja on the premises on the orders of the District Magistrate. By the same orders, Islamic prayers in the mosque were prohibited. The Muslims of Ayodhya filed a title suit in the sessions court on January 16, 1950.

A movement for reclaiming the site of the Babri Mosque for the construction of a Hindu temple was launched by the Sangh Parivar in the early 1980s. In 1984 the first Dharma Sansad, attended by a large number of Hindu saints and politicians, passed a resolution demanding the ‘liberation’ of the site. In the same year the VHP established a militant wing, the Bajrang Dal, under the leadership of Vinay Katiyar. The Bajrand Dal played a prominent role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque and in the communal riots that preceded and followed the demolition. The VHP and the BJP also solicited the participation and involvement of Hindu women in the Ayodhya movement.

The events surrounding the demolition of the Babri Mosque needs to be examined in the wider political context, including the orchestrated campaign of the Sangh Parivar as well as the actions of the Congress leaders. Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, a strong, country-wide wave of sympathy for the Congress and the Nehru dynasty resulted in an unprecedented victory for the party. Rajiv Gandhi, who was sworn in as prime minister, had to contend with two formidable challenges: widespread anger and resentment in the Muslim community in the wake of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Shah Bano case on April 23, 1984, and the growing political mobilization in support of the Ayodhya movement. Faced with enormous pressure from the Muslim community, Rajiv Gandhi’s government decided to overturn the Supreme Court’s judgment by introducing the Muslim Women’s Bill 1986 in Parliament, which sought to take the Muslim Personal Law out of the purview of the Criminal Procedure Code. The passing of the bill was greeted by Muslims, but was strongly condemned by the opposition and exploited by the Sangh Parivar.

On February 1, 1986, the district judge of Faizabad passed orders, under instructions from the highest authorities in the country, to open the locks of the Babri Mosque and to allow puja by Hindu devotees. Meanwhile, Rajiv Gandhi began to play the Hindu card to placate the majority population and to neutralize the impact of the government’s handling of the Shah Bano affair. Following the opening of the mosque’s gates, the RSS and other Hindu organizations launched a movement for the ‘liberation’ of the birthplace of Rama and the construction of a grand mosque at the site of the Babri Mosque. In 1989, several hundred thousand bricks (Ramshilas) were collected from five and a half lakh villages and towns from across the country by the RSS and VHP cadres for the purpose of constructing a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya. In September 1989, the Bajrang Dal, in collusion with a group of Hindu ascetics, announced a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of a grand Ram temple (shilanyas) on a disputed plot of land in front of the mosque. The shilanyas took place on November 9, 1989, and in an election rally, Rajiv Gandhi expressed satisfaction at the peaceful manner in which the ceremony had taken place. The frenzied campaign for the construction of a Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Mosque, spearheaded by the Sangh Parivar and connived at by the Congress-led government at the Centre, created deep resentment and apprehension in the minds of Muslims.

The Ayodhya movement was also strengthened by the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations by the V. P. Singh government in 1989. The BJP decided to join the Ayodhya movement in 1990. L. K. Advani, the then president of the BJP, took out a rath yatra from the Somnath temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya in September 1990. On the way, people presented Advani with swords, spears and maces. Advani and other Hindu leaders made inflammatory speeches, vowed to construct a temple at the site of the mosque and incited Hindus to attack the homes and shops of Muslims. Nearly 40,000 kar sevaks, who had gathered at Ayodhya on October 30, forced open the gates of the mosque and tried to destroy its walls. Some of the devotees climbed on the mosque’s domes and placed saffron flags on them. They were repulsed and driven back by the security forces on the orders of Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Six of the kar sevaks were killed in police firing. Advani was arrested in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s government on October 23, 1990, following which the BJP gave a call for a nation-wide protest. Violence broke out in large parts of the country between September and November, in which nearly 1700 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. More than 24 riots occurred in Uttar Pradesh alone, in which 224 people were killed.

On December 6, 1992, the mosque was torn down by a frenzied Hindu mob, in the presence of prominent Hindu leaders, including L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and the UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, and under the nose of the district administration and the police and paramilitary forces. The Central government forces, which were specifically deployed for the protection of the mosque, looked the other way and withdrew when the mosque began to be dismantled. On December 7, the day after the mosque was completely torn down, Vinay Katiyar, leader of the Bajrang Dal and the BJP member of Parliament from Ayodhya, said, “We thank the state, the district administration, the UP police and the PAC for giving us all the help to complete our mission.” Following the demolition of the mosque, Acharya Dharmendra of the VHP declared that Ayodhya would be made the Vatican of Hinduism and all Muslims would be expelled from the town. According to the Citizen’s Tribunal on Ayodhya, the demolition of the Babri Mosque was preplanned and finalized at a meeting held on December 5, 1992 and attended by the prominent members of the Sangh Parivar, including L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, K. S. Sudarshan, Vinay Katiyar, Vijaya Raje Scindia, Uma Bharati and others. In late December 1992 Atal Behari Vajpayee declared that the Babri Mosque was ‘a symbol of shame and has been erased’.

The events that culminated in the demolition of the Babri Mosque exposed the willful subversion of the constitution with impunity, the fragility and vulnerability of the state, the communalization of politics and the manipulation of democracy for narrow sectarian and political gains, a tragic betrayal of the Nehruvian vision of a secular state by the Congress-led Central government, and the failure of the institutions of the state, including the judiciary and the police and paramilitary forces. Sunil Khilnani has rightly observed that Ayodhya represents the ‘site of the most piercing assault ever faced by the Indian state, one that shook its basic political identity’.

One of the cherished items on the Sangh Parivar’s totalitarian agenda is the communalization of education and history. There was a systematic attempt by the Sangh Parivar between 1998 and 2004, when the BJP held the reins of power at the Centre, to saffronise education. Specific proposals relating to this goal were placed before various fora, including the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). These proposals sought to incorporate the Hindu scriptures and studies on the Hindu way of life and rituals into the curriculum. The strong reaction and resistance from academia, educationists and secular parties forced the BJP-led government to withdraw the proposals. However, the BJP-led governments in several states have systematically sought to implement the Hindutva agenda in the field of education. In November 2011 the BJP-led governments in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka introduced compulsory lessons on the Bhagwad Gita in schools. The Sangh Parivar has used its wide network of educational institutions, such as Vidya Bharati, to disseminate its ideology. Established in 1977, Vidya Bharati runs 28,000 educational institutions with approximately 32,50,000 students on their rolls. The objective of the organization is to “develop a National System of Education which would help to build generations of young men and women that is committed to Hindutva and infused with patriotic fervor.” The organization employs approximately 1,60,000 teachers. These schools are run in all states except Mizoram. In 1996, an evaluation of textbooks taught in Vidya Bharati schools carried out by NCERT found that they were “designed to promote bigotry and religious fanaticism in the name of inculcating knowledge of culture in the young generation.”

The Sangh Parivar takes an extremely narrow, ethnocentric and exclusionary view of Indian history, which is in conformity with the ideology of Hindutva. Following the electoral victory of the BJP and the formation of a BJP-led coalition government at the Centre, an attempt was made to rewrite Indian history. Sections from books written by reputed historians and published by the NCERT, which were at variance with the ideology of the Sangh Parivar, were deleted. One of the freshly written books on the freedom movement, commissioned by the reconstituted NCERT, failed to mention the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, who had links with the Hindu Mahasabha. The move by the BJP-led government to tailor Indian history to the Sangh Parivar’s ideology created a great deal of controversy across the country and was condemned by historians and academics.

For a brief moment, the BJP indulged in what may be described as the politics of national identity. The party launched a slogan ‘India Shining,’ aimed at refurbishing its image and enhance its prospects in the 2004 general election. The slogan purportedly sought to focus on the country’s impressive economic growth and its increasing international visibility and credibility. The BJP-led government spent an estimated 500 crores on the campaign. The slogan drew sharp criticism from the Congress, intelligentsia and the media, which accused the BJP of glossing over the serious problems of poverty, malnutrition, deprivation and inequality. The Congress called the slogan an eyewash. The defeat of the BJP in the 2004 elections exposed the hollowness of the rhetoric.

Despite some setbacks, the BJP remains visible and fairly strong across large parts of the country. It holds the reins of power in six states (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Goa), and shares power with other political parties in four other states. Thanks to its wide networks, the ideology of the BJP has found its way into the middle classes, police and paramilitary forces, bureaucracy and sections of the judiciary and the armed forces.

There is a fairly large Indian diaspora, estimated to be around 22 million, which is spread across large parts of the world. The Sangh Parivar has made systematic efforts to draw members of the Indian diaspora to its ideological fold in the name of cultural nationalism and Hindu identity. In 1989, 167,000 bricks (Ramshilas or Ram’s bricks) were sent to Ayodhya for the construction of a Ram temple not only from across the country but also from the US, Canada, South Africa and the Caribbean, dispatched by overseas Indians. The Sangh Parivar receives substantial remittances from overseas Indians.

Reports from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and other states where the BJP has been in power for the past few years, point to increasing discrimination against the minorities, particularly Muslims, and their growing marginalization and ghettoization. The 2007 report of the Independent People’s Tribunal on Communalism draws attention to methodological attempts by the BJP and other outfits of the Sangh Parivar to marginalize the minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. The tribunal noted that “the criminal justice system in several states appears to be under the influence of Hindutva forces and consequently there instances of false cases being foisted against innocent Muslims.”

The Sangh Parivar has always espoused an aggressive and militarist posture and has displayed an unmistakable propensity to adopt violent methods in the pursuit of its goals. While declaring the RSS unlawful, following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, the government of India said that its members” have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods and to collect firearms. These activities have been carried out under the cloak of secrecy….The cult of violence of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.” Balkrishna Shivramji Moonje, the political mentor of K. B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, and a long-standing president of the Hindu Mahasabha, established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nasik, under whose auspices the Bhonsale Military School was founded in 1937. The explicit aim of the school was to “inculcate military virtues” in Hindu youth. The Bajrang Dal, one of the extremely militant outfits of the Sangh Parivar, has been accused by the Indian Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Watch of direct involvement in the killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. A particularly sinister aspect of this fact came to the surface in 2008 when a group of Hindu extremists, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt. Col Shrikant Purohit, Dayanand Pandey and eight other people from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were arrested by the security forces. Their arrests and the investigations that followed laid bare the tentacles of an organised conspiracy to strike at Muslim shrines and places of worship and to shift the blame onto Muslim terrorist organisations. In 2003-04 there were explosions outside some mosques in Jalna, Parbhani and Nanded. In September 2006 three bombs went off near a mosque and a cemetery in Malegaon, killing 37 people and injuring over a hundred others. A powerful explosion in the same town occurred on September 29, 2008, which killed seven persons. On February 19, 2007, three powerful explosions struck the Samjhauta Express, which turned two compartments of the train into an inferno. The explosions killed 68 people and injured scores of others. In October 2007, low-intensity bombs ripped apart the courtyard of the shrine of the renowned Sufi saint, Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, at Ajmer, in which three persons were killed. On May 17, 2007, a bomb attack on the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad killed 14 Muslims and injured over 50 others. Initially, the police and intelligence agencies suspected that Muslim terrorist groups were involved in these explosions. Following the blast at the Mecca Masjid, the Hyderabad police blamed the Harkatul Jihad al-Islami, a terrorist outfit. Some 26 Muslim men were picked up by the police, interrogated, forced to confess and detained for up to six months.

During investigations into the explosions near some mosques in Jalna and Parbhani, the police discovered false beards and Muslim male outfits, which led the investigation agencies to suspect the involvement of extremist Hindu groups. When the CBI took over the Mecca Masjid blast probe from the Hyderabad police, it discovered evidence that the SIM card and the mobile phone used in detonating the explosives were strikingly similar to the Ajmer blasts contraption. Both the bombs were believed to have contained a deadly mix of RDX and TNT, in proportions often used by the Indian army. CBI director Ashwini Kumar later told the media that a Hindu extremist and RSS pracharak named Sunil Joshi played a key role in orchestrating the Ajmer blast. Sunil Joshi, who has also been linked to the Samjhauta Express blasts, was killed under mysterious circumstances. On October 22, 2010, the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad named a senior RSS functionary, Indresh Kumar, a member of the RSS national executive, as one of the key conspirators in the Ajmer blast. Kumar’s name came up in the course of the interrogations with Lt. Col Purohit, an accused in the Malegaon blast. Lt. Col Purohit also disclosed to the ATS investigators that he had supplied the RDX in the Mecca Masjid blasts. The Rajasthan ATS’s investigations revealed that the conspiracy to strike at Muslim shrines was hatched at a secret meeting held in Jaipur on October 31, 2005. Investigations into the Malegaon blasts, carried out by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, revealed the involvement of a Pune-based militant Hindu organization, Abhinav Bharat. Abhinav Bharat was originally established by Vir Savarkar in 1904 for the purpose of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The investigations into the Malegaon blasts revealed that Sadhvi Pragya Singh was one of the key conspirators and that her motorcycle was used in the explosions and that Lt. Col Purohit secured RDX, which was used in the blast, from the army depot. It also came to light that Maj. Ramesh Upadhyaya, a retired army officer who was the chief of the BJP’s ex-servicemen’s cell in Mumbai, was in close touch with Lt. Col Purohit. His role in the 2008 Malegaon blasts is being probed. Officers of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) filed a charge sheet in a Punjab court accusing 11 persons, all Hindus and members of the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha, of masterminding and executing the blasts at Margao in October 2009. On November 19, 2010, Swami Asimanand, who has been named by the National Investigation Agency of being involved in a series of blasts, including the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts and those at Ajmer, Hyderabad and Malegaon, was arrested from his hideout in Haridwar. Swami Asimanand has long been associated with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an RSS outfit that works among tribals and is well-known for reconverting tribals from Christianity to Hinduism in the Dang area of Gujarat. Investigators believe that a well-organised terrorist conspiracy by extremist Hindu groups was hatched during the Shabri Kumbh held in the Dang area on February 11-13, 2006. Those who attended the secret meeting included Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Sandeep Dange. A month after his arrest, Swami Asimanand confessed before a Delhi Metropolitan magistrate of his involvement in the Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid blasts. He also revealed that the blasts in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008 and in the Samjhauta Express were carried out by Hindu extremists and that he knew about them. He also named Indresh Kumar, Sunil Joshi and Ramji Kalsangra in the terrorist conspiracy.

Investigations by the security agencies have revealed that the design of the shells used in bombs in Nanded, Jalna, Parbhani, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer, Malegaon and Hyderabad was strikingly similar, which suggested the involvement of a single terrorist group. The CBI has sought directives from the Union home ministry to view the blasts at Ajmer, Malegaon, Hyderabad and other places in conjunction. On June 15, 2012, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad requested the Central government to ban Sanatan Sanstha, the far-right outfit whose members are accused in the 2006 and 2008 blasts in Malegaon.

How a Mosque Became a Temple


A timely and revealing book on the takeover of the Babri Masjid on the night of December 22-23, 1949. The authors’ political sophistication emerges from the pointed questions they raise about a divide in our polity.

The Sangh Parivar is all set to revive the Ayodhya issue and for the same reason for which it is seeking to make Narendra Modi its frontman in 2014. It is desperate because it has no vote getter. L.K. Advani’s ambitions have far outrun his abilities as a vote getter. He draws a yawn even in the parivar.

Radhika Ramaseshan, a correspondent very much in the know, reported a meeting on January 31, 2013, at the residence of Shripad Yeso Naik, MP, a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) regular, which was attended by Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj. The long-neglected Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leaders Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia, Champak Rai and Dinesh Kumar dusted off the cobwebs that had covered them to make themselves presentable at the meeting ( The Telegraph, February 1, 2013). On February 7, the VHP’s steering committee meeting at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad passed a resolution on the construction of a Ram temple on the ruins of the Babri Masjid which the parivar demolished 20 years ago on December 6, 1992.

Radhika Ramaseshan reported: “VHP sources admitted that the agenda was political and was drawn up with the 2014 elections in mind and the possibility that the recycled Ayodhya card might help the BJP in the Hindu belt and the west. They also said the blueprint was firmed up in conjunction with the RSS.” One of the reasons for the meeting on January 31 was to “prop up a ‘Hindutva’ context for Narendra Modi’s prospective projection nationally”.

This book could not have made a more timely appearance. It uncovers a wider plot to recast the Indian polity, of which the takeover of the Babri Masjid on the night of December 22-23, 1949, was but a subplot. It is by far the most revealing book on that sordid episode. The authors, both Delhi-based journalists, did fieldwork for years. Their stupendous research in the archives would do any scholar proud. Two lies used repeatedly to cover up the crime are exposed; namely, that the idol of Ram “appeared” that night as L.K. Advani asserted on August 1, 2003. He has also systematically spread the tale that no prayers were said at the mosque for years. The RSS’ organ Organiser said it “meticulously appeared” (March 29, 1987).

The authors record the testimony of the Babri Masjid’s last muezzin, Muhammad Ismail, who put up a fierce resistance to the intruders who had scaled the walls and were about to plant the idol. He was beaten up and forced to flee and he spent the remaining years of his life as a muezzin in a mosque in Paharganj Ghosania on the outskirts of Faizabad.

The muezzin delivers the azan, the call to prayer, and looks after the mosque. The imam leads the prayers five times a day. Haji Abdul Ghaffar, who lived in Mohalla Qaziana in Ayodhya, functioned as imam of the Babri Masjid from 1930 to 1949. His father, Maulvi Abdul Qadir, was imam from 1901 to 1930. Abdul Ghaffar wrote a book Gungashta Haalat Ayodhya, Awadh, which contains a wealth of information and deserves to be translated into English. The authors tracked down the principal actors. Their lively, evocative style of writing brings the events to life. They had located some of the critical eyewitnesses too.

Advani’s ambitions and BJP’s campaign

It was not religion but politics, specifically the lure of power and Advani’s prime ministerial ambitions, which inspired the campaign. In 1990 he waded through pools of blood in his rath yatra from the Somnath temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya. Immediately on the passing of the BJP’s Palampur (Himachal Pradesh) resolution on Ayodhya on June 11, 1989, Advani said, “I am sure it will translate into votes.” On December 3, 1989, after the general elections, he expressed satisfaction that the issue had contributed to the BJP’s success. On February 24, 1991, as India teetered towards another election, he was confident that the issue would “influence the electoral verdict in favour of the BJP”. On June 18, 1991, he made this pathetic confession: “Had I not played the Ram factor effectively, I would have definitely lost from the New Delhi constituency.”

Shortly after the demolition of the Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992, and another wave of carnage that came in its train, Advani wrote that if Muslims were to identify themselves with the concept of Hindutva there would not be any reason for riots to take place ( The Times of India, January 30, 1993). In July 1992, he argued in the Lok Sabha Speaker’s chamber: “You must recognise the fact that from two seats in Parliament in 1985 we have come to 117 seats in 1991. This has happened primarily because we took up this issue [Ayodhya].”

Behind the BJP’s religio-cultural rhetoric, however, there has always been cold political calculation. The BJP leader Sushma Swaraj ripped apart this pretence in Bhopal on April 14, 2000, when she admitted that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was “purely political in nature and had nothing to do with religion” (The Telegraph; April 16, 2000). She was once a socialist and an acolyte of George Fernandes.

The authors recall: “The hands that pumped bullets into the chest of the Mahatma were that of Nathuram Godse, but, as was proved later, the assassination was part of a conspiracy hatched by top Hindu Mahasabha leaders, led by V.D. Savarkar, whose prime objectives were to snatch political initiative from the Congress and destabilise all efforts to uphold secularism in India. The conspiracy to kill Gandhi could not remain hidden for long even though the trial, held immediately after the assassination, had failed to uncover its extent.

The surreptitious occupation of the Babri Masjid was an act planned by almost the same set of people about two years later—on the night of December 22, 1949. It was, in many ways, a reflection of the same brutalised atmosphere that saw Gandhi being murdered. Neither the conspirators nor their underlying objectives were different. In both instances, the conspirators belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha leadership—some of the prime movers of the planting of the idol had been the prime accused in the Gandhi murder case—and their objective this time too was to wrest the political centre stage from the Congress by provoking large-scale Hindu mobilisation in the name of the Lord Rama.” (Emphasis added, throughout.)

Yet the two incidents differed—as much in the modus operandi used by Hindu communalists as in the manner in which the government and the ruling party, the Congress, responded to them. While the Mahatma was killed in full public view in broad daylight, the Babri Masjid was converted into a temple secretly, in the dead of night.

Also, while the conspiracy to kill the Mahatma was probed thoroughly by a commission set up by the Government of India, albeit two decades later, no such inquiry was conducted to unmask the plot and the plotters behind the forcible conversion of the Babri Masjid into a temple. “As a result, an event that so remarkably changed the political discourse in India continues to be treated as a localised crime committed spontaneously by a handful of local people led, of course, by Abhiram Das, a local sadhu. It was, however a well-planned conspiracy involving national, provincial and local level leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha undertaken with the objective of reviving the party’s political fortunes that were lost in the aftermath of the Gandhi assassination.

Interestingly, no major newspaper gave the event the coverage it deserved. Investigative journalism, such as it was, was confined to the tabloids. It would have exposed the deep divide within the Congress between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the secularist, and his Deputy Vallabhbhai Patel, the communalist, who had even inaugurated, in Mumbai in 1945, the Pranlal Mansukhlal Swimming Bath whose membership was confined to Hindus.

First Information Report

The first information report (FIR) lodged at 9 a.m. on December 23, 1949, hours after the Ram idol was installed, speaks for itself. Pandit Ramdeo Dubey, officer-in-charge, Ayodhya Police Station, Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, lodged this FIR against Abhiram Das, Ram Sakal Das, Sudarshan Das and 50 to 60 other persons, whose names were not known, under Sections 147 (rioting), 448 (trespassing) and 295 (defiling a place of worship) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

“That at about 7 in the morning when I (Ramdeo Dubey) reached the Janmabhoomi, I came to know from Mata Prasad [Constable No. 7, Ayodhya Police Station] that a group of 50 to 60 persons have entered the Babri Masjid by breaking open the locks of the compound and also by scaling the walls and staircases and placed an idol of Shri Bhagwan in it and scribbled sketches of Sita, Ramji, etc. in saffron and yellow colours on the inner and outer walls of it. That Hans Raj [Constable No. 70, who was on duty at the time when 50-60 persons entered] stopped them [from doing so] but they did not care. The PAC [Provincial Armed Constabulary] guards present there were called for help. But by then the people had already entered the mosque. Senior district officials visited the site and got into action. Later on, a mob of five to six thousand people gathered and tried to enter into the mosque raising religious slogans and singing kirtans. But due to proper arrangement, nothing happened. Committers of crime [Abhi] Ram Das, [Ram] Sakal Das, Sudarshan Das with 50 to 60 persons, names not known, have desecrated [ naapaak kiya hai] the mosque by trespassing the mosque through rioting and placing idol in it. Officers on duty and many other people have seen it. So the case has been checked. It is found correct.”

Ramachandra Das Paramhans, who told The New York Times, “I am the very man who put the idol inside the masjid” (December 22, 1991), was nowhere on the scene. Many believed he had left town to attend the conference of the Hindu Mahasabha that was to begin on December 24 in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The man who had planted the idol was Abhiram Das.

Fight for control

There was a rift between the intruders as well; Abhiram’s aim was to establish his Nirvani Akhara’s complete sway over Ayodhya. “It was an established tradition that the Nirvani Akhara possessed the temple of Lord Hanuman inside Hanumangarhi, meaning thereby that it would have control over all the offerings and donations that the temple received from devotees and patrons. As part of this arrangement, the Nirmohi Akhara, another prominent Ramanandi Akhara, had been assigned control over the Ramachabutara. The Ramachabutara until then was worshipped as Lord Rama’s janmabhoomi. Accordingly, all the offerings at this site were collected by the Nirmohi Akhara.”

The claim of the Nirmohi Akhara over the janmabhoomi would automatically be diluted if Abhiram Das, a member of the Nirvani Akhara, succeeded in installing an idol of Ram inside the Babri Masjid—almost 50 feet [15.2 metre] away from the Ram chabutara. The “real janmabhoomi” that would thus emerge inside the mosque would make the janmabhoomi owned for almost a century by the Nirmohi Akhara redundant. And by becoming the Janmabhoomi Uddharak, Abhiram Das would have sole control over this potentially most significant spot in Ayodhya.

He held the idol firmly as he began climbing the Masjid wall. He, who led the march, was an active Mahasabhaite and was a trusted lieutenant of Mahant Digvijai Nath, president of the U.P. unit of the Mahasabha. Ramachandra Das Paramhans was president of the Ayodhya unit. The authors are scrupulously fair to V.D. Savarkar and accept that “there is scant evidence implicating Savarkar in this conspiracy”. But the top leadership could not have been ignorant of what was afoot. A resolution adopted at the special session of the Mahasabha in Poona (now Pune) in December 1950 claimed: “During this year, [the] Hindu Mahasabha undertook the work of regaining the Ram Janmabhoomi temple at Ayodhya. Sri Mahant Digvijai Nath [Hindu Mahasabha’s national general secretary and president of the party’s U.P. unit], Sri V.G. Deshpande [the party’s national vice president] and Sri Tej Narain [working president of the party’s U.P. unit] went there and the Ram Janma Bhoomi shrine is now in the possession of the Hindu Mahasabhaites.…”

The authors also record: “It has been rumoured that sometime in the second week of December 1949, at a meeting of the reception committee set up for the twenty-eighth session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar had directed Mahant Digvijay Nath, the president of the party’s provincial unit in U.P., to concentrate solely on ‘regaining’ Ramajanmabhoomi in Ayodhya so that the work could be ‘accomplished’ before the beginning of the Mahasabha’s Calcutta session on December 24 that year. Apart from Savarkar and Mahant Digvijai Nath, it was claimed, the meeting that took place at the party headquarters in Delhi was attended by other prominent Mahasabha leaders like Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee, Dr. N.B. Khare (who became the party president two weeks later) and Mamarao Date (based on interview with Pramod Pandit Joshi, secretary, All India Hindu Mahasabha on December 10, 2010).”

After Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948, the Mahasabha’s former president, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, then a Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet, suggested two options to the Mahasabha on February 6: “to break with its political activities” and confine itself to “social, cultural and religious objects” or open its doors to every citizen who accepted its programme. The Mahasabha accepted the first in a qualified form. It decided to “suspend political activities”, not abandon them. On August 8, 1948, the party’s executive decided to renew its political activities, which it ratified on November 6-7, 1948. On April 3, 1948, the Constituent Assembly had passed a resolution denouncing communal political parties, leaving Mookerjee with two choices, quit the Cabinet or the Mahasabha. He chose the latter on November 23, 1948. But if political activity was to be renewed, an attractive plank was necessary. It was the Ram temple. The BJP followed this course in 1989 and is likely to do so again in 2013.

However, success required support from the bureaucracy and from the ruling party, the Congress. “The idea that eventually changed the politics of India, though much later than its originators had anticipated, emerged for the first time among three friends—Maharaja Pateshwari Prasad Singh, head of the princely state of Balrampur, Mahant Digvijai Nath and K.K.K. Nair. The three were joined as much by their Hindu communal sentiments as their love for lawn tennis.” K.K.K. Nair, ICS was then District Magistrate of Gonda. Between June 1, 1949, and March 14, 1950, he was Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate of Faizabad. Later he was elected to the Lok Sabha on the Jana Sangh ticket. His accomplice was the City Magistrate of Faizabad Guru Datt Singh. Both were forced to quit the service after the masjid’s take over.

Yagna and idea

In 1948 the Maharaja of Balrampur founded the Ram Rajya Parishad. K.K.K. Nair was among his guests. He amassed massive plots of land. The idea was mooted in the early months of 1947 when the Maharaja organised a grand yajna. The plot was bared in 1991 in the Mahasabha’s weekly Hindu Sabha Varta, which the authors quote: “On the last day of the yajna, Sri Digvijai Nath—as per the views expressed by Sri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar that the [Hindu] religious places which had been under occupation of foreigners must now be liberated—discussed the idea [of capturing the Babri Masjid] with Karpatriji and Nair. Promising that he would get back to him after considering the proposal seriously, Nair left for the district headquarters of Gonda. The next day, reaching the place of yajna at Balrampur, Nair went straight to Karpatriji and Mahant Digvijai Nath, who welcomed him and asked him to sit next to them. They began discussing the issue once again. When Nair inquired about the detailed plan, the mahant laid before him the strategy to get back Sri Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya, apart from Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi and Sri Krishna janmabhoomi in Mathura. Nair then promised Digvijai Nath that he would sacrifice everything in order to accomplish this task.”

Digvijay Nath exhorted Hindu militants on January 27, 1948, to kill Gandhi, three days before the assassination. He was in favour of depriving “Muslims of the right to vote for five to ten years”. The BJP is too astute to say that. But by harping on a non-existent “Muslim vote bank” it wants to make political discourse an intra-Hindu affair.

The game would not have succeeded but for Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant and his backer at the Centre, Vallabhbhai Patel. In 1998, the then Home Secretary of U.P., Rajeshwar Dayal, made a shocking disclosure in his memoir A Life of Our Times. Officials brought to him trunk loads of plans for a holocaust obtained as a result of raids on the premises of the RSS. “I pressed for the immediate arrest of the prime accused Shri Golwalkar (the RSS Supremo) who was still in the area. Pant deliberately procrastinated. Golwalkar disappeared. RSS sympathisers, both covert and overt, were to be found in the Congress party itself and even in the Cabinet.” Speedy action might have saved Gandhi’s life.

Congress, a house divided

The U.P. Congress was a house divided. Patel’s supporters were led by Pant; Nehru’s by Rafi Ahmed Kidwai. But Pant controlled the party. The Congress Socialist Party left the Congress in March 1948. All its 13 legislators resigned their seats and sought a fresh mandate. Byelections were due in June. Acharya Narendra Dev, a Socialist, fought from Faizabad. He had to be defeated. Pant’s faction replaced Siddheshwari Prasad with Baba Raghav Das and Pant himself made a several visits to Faizabad. In one speech he said that “Muslims and zamindars and other vested interests were trying to undermine the Congress” and that Narendra Dev did not believe in Ram.

So fouled was the atmosphere that Nehru wrote to Mohanlal Saxena, a Cabinet colleague, in September 1949: “Indeed the U.P. is becoming almost a foreign land for me. I do not fit in there. The U.P. Congress Committee, with which I have been associated for thirty-five years, now functions in a manner which amazes me. Its voice is not the voice of the Congress I have known, but something which I have opposed for the greater part of my life […] Communalism has invaded the minds and hearts of those who were pillars of the Congress.” The hint was clear.

Mahasabhaites took heart from this, as the BJP did in 1991-92 under P.V. Narasimha Rao’s regime. When Narendra Dev lost, Digvijay Nath rejoiced that “to win the elections the Congress leaders had to appeal to the Hindu feelings of the voters.”

Sequence of events

The authors carefully trace the events from October 28, 1949, onwards when a huge congregation resolved to organise a function at the Ram chabutra on November 24. As they point out, “till then the Ramachabutra, and not the Babri Masjid, was referred to as Ramajanmabhoomi”. The trio—K.K.K Nair, Guru Datt Singh and Gopal Singh Visharad, head of the Faizabad Mahasabha—went to work. One man saw what was happening and spoke up loud and clear. He was Akshay Brahmachari, a Gandhian who was secretary of the Faizabad District Congress. “Developments taking place in Ayodhya and Faizabad and the question of Babri Mosque are neither a simple question of mosque or temple nor a fight between Hindus and Muslims. This is a serious conspiracy by reactionary forces who want to use it to kill the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and win electoral battle by raising communal passion. Local officials have also participated in this conspiracy.”

The plotters decided, on K.K.K. Nair’s advice, that planting the idol was better than taking over the mosque by mass action. A meeting was held on December 2, which was attended by leaders of the Mahasabha and Nair.

As Abhiram Das led the attack, the muezzin Mohammed Ismail woke up from his slumber and “grabbed Abhiram Das” from behind and almost snatched the “idol from him”. He was beaten badly and ran for his life. Thus a mosque was forcibly and deceitfully converted into a temple. Islamic carvings were erased. As arranged, a crowd collected the next morning. The reader must peruse this meticulously documented work to appreciate the political events before the takeover and the legal skulduggery thereafter to legitimise a crime. The correspondence between K.K.K. Nair and the higher-ups and between Nehru and Pant as well as Patel’s make-believe letter to Pant are all set out.

Nehru’s soft approach

Matters came to a head in August 1950 when Purushottamdas Tandon defeated Acharya Kripalani in the polls for the post of Congress president. Tandon, anointed at the Nasik session in September 1950, resigned less than a year later, Patel having died in December 1950.

The authors’ political sophistication emerges from the pointed questions they raise about a divide in our polity. They note: “[U]ntil he succeeded in marginalising Hindu traditionalists inside the Congress and their source of strength outside the party, Nehru seemed to have allowed his secularism to suffer from a certain ambiguity, doubtless due to his concern not to hand over his opponents a chance to brand him anti-Hindu and thereby score a deadly point over him. Pragmatists may argue that was the reason why Nehru, as he jostled with Patel for supremacy within the party, did not mind a great part of his vision of secularism falling by the wayside.

“There is a counter-argument as well, which raises some pertinent questions. Was it necessary for Nehru to remain a mute spectator while Govind Ballabh Pant and Purushottamdas Tandon played the communal card to finish off their opponents in U.P.—especially Acharya Narendra Dev—and thus created a ground conducive for the Mahasabhaites in Ayodhya? Could it have been avoided? Would communalists still have succeeded in taking over the Babri Masjid and retaining it in the face of all hue and cry, had Nehru opted for an uncompromisingly tough attitude towards them right from the beginning? Wouldn’t a harder attitude have forced the State government to take effective steps to remove the idol from the mosque and, thereby, undo the wrong committed on the night of December 22, 1949? Could the Hindu Mahasabha have succeeded in going that far in implementing its Ayodhya strategy without Nehru’s soft approach?”

As Sampurnanand wrote in his memoirs, Nehru never threw his weight behind the Congress Socialist Party. That does not diminish the majesty of his vision of a modern secular India. It is debatable how much power he wielded before Patel’s death on December 15, 1950. Nehru’s mass appeal was far greater than Patel’s, but it was Patel who controlled the party machine. In this task Patel was aided by rank communalists such as Rajendra Prasad, Pant, Ravi Shankar Shukla and B.C. Roy, Nehru’s old friend, and Tandon, who said on June 14, 1948: “The Musulmans must stop talking about a culture and a civilisation foreign to our country and genius. They should accept Indian culture. One culture and one language will pave the way for real unity. Urdu symbolises a foreign culture. Hindi alone can be the unifying factor for the diverse forces in the country.”

He became president of the Congress. Moraji Desai said on November 29, 1964: “The Hindu majority is clean hearted and fair-minded. I cannot say the same about the majority of the Indian Muslims.” ( Hindustan Times, November 30, 1964.) He became Prime Minister of India.

Nehru’s biographer records that “in performing this duty (protection of Muslims), his first as the leader of a free people, Nehru could not rely on the unqualified support of his Cabinet”. Patel and Rajendra Prasad, backed by S.P. Mookerjee, opposed him. Patel was opposed to the return to Delhi of the Muslims who had fled the city to escape butchery, thanks to his own failure to protect them (S. Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru, pages 15-16).

Nehru temporised and contented himself with delivering speeches and writing to Chief Ministers, exerting himself actively when he could. On February 15, 1954, a deputation of Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu met the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad and presented a petition asking for a Central directive under Article 347 of the Constitution that Urdu be recognised as one of the regional languages of Uttar Pradesh. It was presented by Dr. Zakir Husain and among its signatories were Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru, Mrs. Uma Nehru, Pandit Sundarlal and Kishen Chander.

It drew a rare snub to Maulana Azad from Nehru, on March 12, 1954. The petitioners should have approached the U.P. government itself! A Central directive “might well create some kind of a constitutional crisis”. But invoking a constitutional provision does not create a constitutional crisis; perhaps a political one which Nehru feared, given the mood there (see the writer’s The Muslims of India, OUP, pages 299-305).

Hindu chauvinism

Later, Indira Gandhi so fouled the atmosphere when she returned to power in 1980 that even Atal Bihari Vajpayee was provoked to tell M. Markham of The New York Times (June 14, 1984) that her conduct in “encouraging Hindu chauvinism is not going to pay. As the majority community, Hindus must be above parochial politics.” This is precisely the course Advani took in 1990.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 drew a fierce attack by a politician not only on the crime and its perpetrators, and on their entire outlook, but also on the acquiescence of “non-Congress centrist secular parties”. He wrote:

“We were not conscious of our own strength either in 1977 or in 1989 and carried the BJP on our shoulders from strength to strength…. Religious fanaticism soon became the declared electoral platform of the BJP. Capture of power in UP led it to believe that it could capture power at the Centre by the same tactics….

“India is being pushed back into the dark ages by obscurantist, fundamentalist and fascist forces. Their appeasement… has today given them the strength and the audacity to seek to destroy the very basis of our nation state…. [T]he secular forces will have to unitedly and determinedly meet this challenge if India is to survive as a democratic, secular, progressive, liberal and modern nation.”

It is hard to think of a stronger and more just denunciation of the BJP. It was written in The Sunday Observer of December 14, 1992. On November 13, 1993, he joined the BJP. The politician was Yashwant Sinha. To The Times of India he pleaded dishonestly that “by then the difference between communalism and secularism had blurred” (June 24, 2007). All the more reason for espousing secularism even more strongly. There was no such blurring between December 14, 1992, and November 13, 1993, at all; only the opening of a more promising avenue to power than his mentor Chandrashekhar could provide. As Finance Minister in the BJP-led regime he “consulted RSS leaders before I finalised the 1998 budget” ( Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer, page 183).

But, of course, Yashwant Sinha was and is neither a secularist nor a communalist; neither a fascist nor a socialist. He is simply a committed opportunist. The likes of him will follow his example if the BJP shows signs of renewal. In this there is a lesson for all secularists, but mainly for the Muslims of India. They should by all means fight for redress of grievances which are serious; but it is an abdication of duty as citizens of a secular state to confine politics to redress of the community’s grievances. Secularism demands not detachment but involvement in the entire range of the nation’s activities—economic, social, political and constitutional. The course they have followed in recent decades has furthered the fortunes of the thugs in New Delhi who claim to be their “leaders”, earned them favours and marginalised Muslims. The BJP would not have travelled as far as it did, nor would the Babri Masjid have been demolished if the Muslims of India had lent their shoulder to the cause of secularism. A lot of time has been wasted.

It would be sheer folly to ignore the omens. The political clime is deteriorating fast.

(Source: Frontline, February 23, 2013)

Contours of a Conspiracy


Criminal conspiracy under the law is defined as an agreement between at least two persons to commit one or more illegal acts or acts by illegal means. By its criminal intent, such a conspiracy is masterminded under a cloak of secrecy. When, and if, such a conspiracy involves a powerful, constitutionally elected head of a state, it is unlikely that the masterminding of such a series of dastardly criminal acts will be closely recorded (minuted).

Injured Muslims, including children, who took shelter in the Shah Alam mosque in Ahmedabad The first, sharp indication that the series of acts of commission and omission by the Gujarat government under its Chief Minister in 2002, following the tragedy at Godhra, came in succinct terms from the former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, who was heading the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): “The Commission would like to observe at this stage that it is the primary and inescapable responsibility of the State to protect the right to life, liberty, equality and dignity of all of those who constitute it. It is also the responsibility of the State to ensure that such rights are not violated either through overt acts, or through abetment or negligence. It is a clear and emerging principle of human rights jurisprudence that the State is responsible not only for the acts of its own agents, but also for the acts of non-State players acting within its jurisdiction. The State is, in addition, responsible for any inaction that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights” (Interim and final reports, 2002). The NHRC was also scathing in its observations regarding the blatantly discriminatory governance displayed by the government of the day —differential rates of compensation and an obdurate refusal to visit the relief camps (1,68,000 persons were forcibly displaced because of the violence and arson) where innocent members of the minority community were housed, having been made to “pay” for the “heinous” crime at Godhra.

The report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal (Crimes Against Humanity—Gujarat 2002), headed by Justices V.R. Krishna Iyer, P.B. Sawant and Hosbet Suresh, further detailed the gruesome conspiracy, making sharp and telling recommendations. While these reports were being documented, in parallel, chilling corroboration of the depth of the planning behind the perpetrated violence came from serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officers of the Gujarat government, former ASGP Intelligence R.B. Sreekumar, and S.P. Bhavnagar and DCP Crime Branch Rahul Sharma. They filed their affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission within months of the violence. By 2004, when two of the criminal trials arising out of the state-perpetuated carnage, the Best Bakery and the Bilkees Bano cases, had been transferred out of Gujarat for trial, these officers had been examined by the Nanavati-Shah Commission, and Sharma had produced a CD of five lakh phone records that provided more evidence of complicity and planning behind the attacks.

All this material was put together in a criminal complaint by Zakia Ahsan Jafri, assisted by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and sent to the by then Director General of Police (DGP) P.C. Pandey, an officer seriously indicted for connivance in allowing Ahmedabad to burn for weeks in 2002. He had been the happy recipient of a series of promotions by the man at the helm, the State’s Home Minister who was, and is, also the Chief Minister. Expectedly, this criminal complaint dated June 8, 2006, was treated with contempt, compelling Zakia Jafri and the CJP to petition the Gujarat High Court and later the Supreme Court of India for an order for the registration of a first information report (FIR) against the 60-plus accused. Today, arguments for and against charge-sheeting the 59 accused (two have since died, former Health and Law Minister Ashok Bhatt and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, ideologue Prof. K.K. Shastri) have begun before a magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad.

Unique legal effort

The courts will adjudicate on a unique legal effort at pinning criminal and administrative culpability and responsibility on the political and administrative leadership and the frontrunners of non-state actors (from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, or RSS, and the VHP) who were given the run of Gujarat’s streets. Between 2006, when the complaint was first sent to the DGP, Gujarat, to September 12, 2011, when the Supreme Court gave the complainants the right to approach a court in Ahmedabad, a detailed (if wanting) investigation was completed and, in criminal law terms, the stage was set for charge-sheeting some or all of the accused. In the interim, finding the high-profile Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by it wanting, the Supreme Court of India had on May 5, 2011, directed the amicus curiae in the case, Raju Ramachandran, to assess the evidence—he found enough material to prosecute accused number 1, the State’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and at least three others. The SIT, in its final report filed on February 8, 2012, gave a clean chit to everyone.

Students of law and politics can learn much from a close study of this legal drama. Serious efforts at weaving together the threads of the sinister and massive conspiracy that had been alleged in the complaint were expected from such a high-profile SIT. From the start, however, the SIT deliberately set its bar low, preferring to look at only stray, discreet and superficial aspects alleged in the complaint, deliberately ignoring the import and consequences of a series of criminal and negligent acts and their impact. It ignored contemporaneous documentary evidence, the systematic use of instigative vitriol by the state and non-state accused, and rigidly refused to record statements of independent agencies like the officers of the Indian Army and Central intelligence who were privy to the consummate failures of the time.

It is no wonder then that it took the complainant, Zakia Jafri, a whole year after the final report was filed by the SIT on February 8, 2012, to get the Supreme Court to order full and complete access to all the documents and investigation reports, on February 7, 2013. The SIT did everything within in its power not just to give a clean chit to all the powerful accused but to deny the complainant her legal and moral right to access all investigation papers to facilitate and lend meaning and authority to a comprehensive protest petition.

Evidence of a cold-blooded conspiracy to manipulate the tragic Godhra incident—from the moment of the terrible news—has emerged. The petition weaves together evidence from an analysis of phone records, as also documentary contemporaneous records, and alleges that the conspiracy involved the Chief Minister, accused number 1, who was in close consultation with the then Health Minister Ashok Bhatt (accused no. 2), Urban Development Minister I.K. Jadeja (accused no. 3) and other co-accused Cabinet colleagues, and especially VHP leader Jaideep Patel (accused no. 21), to fully exploit the tragedy at Godhra for fuelling the meticulously planned massacre of Muslims all over Gujarat. The petition makes the following points:

Phone call records show that Narendra Modi was in close touch with Jaideep Patel immediately after information of the Godhra tragedy came in, even before he met Home Department officials and Ministers. Thereafter, there was a hasty and publicly conducted post-mortem at Godhra, out in the public against all law and procedure while a crowd of VHP workers was present. Narendra Modi was present while this happened. While passions were being so cynically stoked, another decision to hand over the bodies of Godhra victims to VHP strongman Jaideep Patel was taken at a mini Cabinet meeting presided over by the Chief Minister in Godhra, at which the co-accused Ministers were present. Jaideep Patel too was present at the meeting. Senior members of the administration and police were intimidated and neutralised. Other co-accused, the then Gujarat Director General of Police, K. Chakravarti (A-25), the then Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad, P.C. Pandey (A-29), the then additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ashok Narayan (A-28), and other key members of the bureaucracy and police were co-conspirators.

The SIT seems to have deliberately ignored the documentary evidence collected during the investigation. Key field reports from the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) from all the districts were given to the SIT by January 2010, that is, a full three and a half months before the SIT submitted its first investigation report to the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010. These reports reveal a grim ground-level reality: gross provocations and bloodthirsty slogans by VHP workers from 4 p.m. onwards on the afternoon of February 27, 2002 (“Khoon ka badla khoon se lenge”, blood for blood) while Narendra Modi had still not left for Godhra. The late-night meeting at Narendra Modi’s residence effectively neutralised the police and the administration from doing its constitutional duty. The protest petition states that the credibility of the evidence relating to the critical February 27, 2002, meeting must be tested during trial and that it was not the job of the investigating agency to pre-judge the issue, acting like a court, overstepping its jurisdiction to protect and save the powerful accused. This is also what the amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, had opined.

Damning evidence

Evidence from the Police Control Room (PCR) records submitted by P.C. Pandey to the SIT after March 15, 2011 (that is, after the Supreme Court ordered the SIT to further investigate the complaint of Zakia Jafri dated June 8, 2006) reveals a cynical and cold-blooded mobilisation of RSS workers and VHP men at the Sola Civil Hospital from 4 a.m. onwards on February 28, 2002, in aggressive anticipation of the arrival of the dead bodies. Yet, both the SIT reports state that the funeral processions were peaceful. Repeated PCR messages, messages that the Home Department under Narendra Modi (A-1, who held the Home portfolio) and P.C. Pandey (A-21) were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat, crowds were mobilised to parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. Repeated PCR messages desperately ask for bandobast; they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat; of a 5,000-6,000-strong mob accompanying the bodies and, finally, one message also says that “riots have broken out”. Equally volatile mobilisations were allowed simultaneously at Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand, and so on. A cynical government under Narendra Modi and his co-accused have done their best to conceal this evidence. The SIT ignored such hard documentary evidence completely.

The PCR records also reveal that the Ahmedabad Police under P.C. Pandey and the Home Department under Narendra Modi and the then Minister of State, Home, Gordhan Zadaphiya (A-5) had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his inciteful slogans, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil Hospital to accompany the processionists. But they did not have enough forces to protect the hapless citizens of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg, where over 200 persons were massacred the same day. Narendra Modi allowed and openly supported the bandh during which RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal mobs had a free run of the streets.

Judicially, the Modi government has received several reprimands, and even warnings, right from the 2004 Best Bakery case to the more recent findings of the higher courts, for its attitude towards the rebuilding of 297 masjids and durgahs wilfully destroyed in 2002. Yet, the same government which has received consistent and serious setbacks on issues relating to constitutional governance won three elections. A serious dilemma or battle between electoral and constitutional governance?

(Source: Frontline, May 17, 2013)

Gujarat riots were not spontaneous and sudden


The police had received a constant stream of inputs from its field officers in Gujarat in 2002.

In the past 10 years, the Gujarat government and senior BJP leaders have often said that the riots that broke out in the state in February 2012 were an 'instantaneous reaction' to the carnage at Godhra. The chief minister himself in an interview on March 1, 2002 had said, "What we are witnessing in Gujarat at this time is a chain of action and reaction. We want that there neither be action nor reaction."

But now Headlines Today has uncovered the police control room messages and the state intelligence bureau reports which show that the police had received a constant stream of inputs from its field officers about VHP leaders making provocative speeches, about crowds being mobilised and warnings about the possibility of major riots breaking out. Despite the flurry of ground reports and advance warnings, no curfew was imposed in Ahmedabad till noon the next day. The BJP government supported the VHP called bandhs that, as events turned out, proved to be the pretext under which violent mobs were mobilized. VHP leaders were not warned or put under preventive detention.

But the most intriguing aspect of these messages is that while they have been produced before the court as annexures, they don't find any mention in the 541 page closure report filed by the SIT. No attempt has been made by the SIT to reconstruct the sequence of events as they unfolded immediately after the news of Sabarmati train incident broke. The SIT did not assess the adequacy or appropriateness of the state's response in a chronological fashion as the law and order collapsed in large parts of the state.

Perhaps, that's the reason that the facts that emerge from these messages are hard to reconcile with the conclusions drawn by the SIT.

There were two centralised police control rooms in Ahmedabad in 2002 - Ahmedabad Police Control Room situated at Shahibaug in the heart of the city. Naroda and Gulberg Society, where around 150 people were burnt to death on the 28th of February lay within a radius of 6 KMs from this Police Control Room 9Gulber was 2 to 3 kms from the control room while Naroda was roughly six kilometers).

The second one -- the State Police Control Room -- located at Police Bhawan in Gandhinagar.

The Ahmedabad Police Control Room received messages of the build up taking place in Ahmedabad City. The State Control Room got messages from different districts in the state.

In February 2012 the SIT submitted before an Ahmedabad court, in a sealed cover, only the Ahmedabad City PCR messages... a copy of these are now with Headlines Today. The State Control Room messages are still missing.

There was also a third control room...this was at the State Intelligence Bureau Headquarters situated inside Police Bhawan, Gandhinagar...the same building where the State DGP's office is located. The SIB Control Room was also flooded with field intelligence reports filed by its intelligence units located across the State including Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. These SIB reports too have been submitted before the Court by the SIT. A copy of these too is now in the possession of Headlines Today.

By the afternoon of February 27, the Gujarat home department was being bombarded with messages from cops on the ground about mobilisation of VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre.

Rightwing activists across the state were holding public meetings, making provocative speeches and inciting mobs. All this is documented in hundreds of wireless messages sent by policemen to the state intelligence bureau. But the State failed to take any effective steps to prevent the imminent massacres. Within a few hours after the Godhra tragedy, the three senior-most office bearers of Gujarat's VHP unit -Jaideep Patel, Dilep Trivedi and Kaushik Patel-- issued a statement declaring a state wide bandh and containing remarks that were designed to incite the mobs.

A field level officer faxed this statement to SIB headquarters at 20:38 hours on the 27 Feb 2002.

February 27, 2002
Time: 8:38 pm
State Intelligence Bureau Message No: Page No. 188 (Annexure III, File XVIII)

VHP general secreatary Dilip Trivedi & VHP joint secretaries Jaideep Patel & Kaushik Mehta issue a statement.

VHP declares Gujarat bandh to protest killing of kar sevaks.

Statement says Muslims pre-planned Godhra attack.

Innocent ladies were molested and compartments were set on fire and Ramsevaks were burnt alive.

Through out the day on 27th February the SIB control room received messages of provocative sloganeering and mobilisation by the VHP.

February 27, 2002
Time: Not Known
State Intelligence Bureau Message No: Page No. 345, Order No. 24 (Annexure III File XIX)
Sender: D.O, Ahmedabad
Recipient: Intelligence Office, Virangam (Ahmedabad)

75 VHP & Bajrang Dal members gathered at Virangam Town Chali & Golwada area.

Situation in the area very tense.

The PCR messages warned about the tension that was spreading from the moment sabarmati express (the same train that was attacked by Muslim mobs at Godhra and later after detaching the burnt bogies made its way to Ahmedabad) arrived at Ahmedabad station.

February 27, 2002
Time: 6:10 pm
State Intelligence Bureau Message: No. 531 Page No. 19 (Annexure III, File XVIII (D-160)

Sabarmati Express arrived at Ahmedabad station from Godhra at 4:30 pm.

Karsevaks armed with rods & sticks, shouting slogans 'khoon ka badla khoon'.

At 10:12 pm, Police Inspector of CID, Intelligence in Bhavnagar sent a fax to Inspector General, Gujarat State Intelligence Bureau in Gandhi Nagar saying that Sadhu Samaj president Gopal Nand and local VHP leaders exhorted crowds at Junagadh to retaliate. The message said that the VHP leaders delivered hate speeches and called on all Hindus to unite.

February 27, 2002
Time: 10:12 pm
State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message: 311/02 Page No.: D-1/ HA/Jaher Sabha/Junagadh
Sender: CID, Bhavnagar
Recipient: IG, Gujarat &
Intelligence Bureau, Gandhi Nagar

Sadhu Samaj president Gopal Nand gave provocative speech at Junagadh Kadva Chowk between 7:30 pm-9 pm.

Gopal Nand questioned lack of response from Hindus even 12 hours after burning of train.

Gopal Nand questioned Muslim patriotism to India and incited mobs to attack them.

By the afternoon of the 27th, the riots had begun.

February 27, 2002
Time 17:45
State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message No 273 File XIX Annexure III
Sender: B M Mohit Anand Centre

Sabarmati Express reached Anand Railway Station at 1500 hrs

Karsevaks from the train stabbed 4 Muslims present at the station.

One victim named Abdul Rashid aged 65 years, resident of Anand, died.

Remaining were hospitalised at Anand government hospital.

Reports of violent attacks by karsevaks came from across the state. A VHP mob was reported as swelling at Vadagam village in Modasa that was to become another epicentre of violence. There were desperate SOS messages seeking reinforcements. Mobs were on rampage through the night, setting ablaze houses and vehicles.

February 27, 2002
Time: 11:59 pm
State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message: Com/HM/550/ Out No. 398
Sender: ACP, Gandhinagar Region
Recipient: IG, Gujarat & Intelligence Bureau, Gandhi Nagar

50 kar sevaks on special bus from Ahmedabad reached Modasa, Vadagam village at 6:30 pm.

500-strong mob received kar sevaks.

Karsevaks told mobs about attack on Sabarmati Express.

Crowds swelled to thousands by 9:30 pm.

Police presence insufficient to maintain order.

10 shops owned by Muslims & several vehicles set ablaze by mobs.

Despite these warnings there was no clampdown by the Gujarat government on the mobilisation being carried out by the VHP leadership and neither were VHP and Bajrang Dal members taken under preventive detention.

The Speical Investigation Team in its report accepted that the Modi government supported the bandh called by the VHP.

Page 134 of SIT closure report: "Shri Vijay Badheka, Under Secretary to Home Department has stated before the SIT that both Gujarat bandh on 28.02.02 and Bharat bandh on 01.03.02 were supported by the BJP."

The bandh allowed the VHP cadre a free run even as the SIB kept sending signals of impending riots and sought preventive action.

February 28, 2002
Time: 9am-10am
State Intelligence Bureau Message No: 73/02 Page 365 (Annexure III File XXI (D-166)
Sender: ACP (Intelligence) Surat

VHP, BJP leaders gave provocative speeches at Sardar Chowk, Vapi Town.

VHP's Dinesh Behri, Bajrang Dal's Acharya Brahmbatt, BJP's Jawahar Desai & RSS member Vinod Chowdhary present Speakers exhorted crowds to take revenge for Godhra.

When the Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pande and State DGP K. Chakravarty were questioned by the SIT, they were not confronted with these specific SIB reports. P.C. Pande was not asked why curfew was not imposed in Ahmedabad city on the 27th afternoon itself, particularly in the face of such specific intelligence inputs.

Pande told SIT on page 7 of his statement recorded on 24.03.2010: "The circumstances did not exist on the 27.02.02 or even on 28.02.02 to warrant the imposition of curfew and any hasty decision would have led to panic in the city. Even otherwise with limited forces available imposition of curfew becomes a serious problem and large scale breach becomes common."

Pande and Chakravarty were also not asked why VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders were not put under preventive arrest even as they were threatening violence.

But the SIT has not explained what these specific measures were. General and vague claims made by Gujarat State Officials that all possible efforts were made to control the riots have been accepted by the SIT.

The State Intelligence Bureau repeatedly pressed the panic button, sending SOS' to the home department about the possibility of riots. Bodies of kar sevaks in public display and funeral processions by mobs…proved to be the trigger. But records show the VHP and its cadres succeeded in stoking mass hysteria.

30 minutes past midnight on the 28th of February 2002, the state intelligence bureau received a fax giving a specific warning about possibility of riots with bodies being brought to Ahmedabad. Then VHP state unit president Jaideep Patel was already on his way escorting the 54 bodies from Godhra to Ahmedabad.

February 28, 2002
Time: 12:30 am
State Intelligence Bureau Fax No. 525

Bodies will be brought to Kalupur Railway station, Ahmedabad.

Dead bodies will be carried in funeral processions VHP gave a bandh call.

High possibility of riots in Ahmedabad. Take preventive action.

February 28, 2002.
Time: Not Known
State Intelligence Bureau report to Home Secretary and all Police Commissioner, all SPs
VHP has given a call for "Gujarat Bandh".

Appropriate vigilance be exercised.

The motorcade carrying bodies finally reached Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad at 3:34 AM. By then there was a already a mob made up of VHP and RSS members outside Sola Hospital.

The PCR Van positioned at Sola Civil Hospital sent a message to City Police Control Room situated at Shaibaug. The distance between Hospital and Control Room was 11 kilometres.

February 28, 2002
Time: 4:00 am
Page No. 5790 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob of 3000 RSS members gathered at Sola Hospital.

February 28, 2002
Time: 7:14 am
PCR wireless message (Sola Hospital) Page No. 5796 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob assembled at Sola Hospital.

The crowds were getting restless. Soon violence sparked off.

February 28, 2002 Time: 7:17 am PCR wireless message (Sola Hospital) Page No. 5797 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob of 500 people holding up traffic.

At 8:10 there is a message from the Control Room saying that 3 SRP Companies have been sent to Sola Hospital for extra bandobast.

February 28, 2002
Time: 11:55 am
PCR wireless message: Page No 5894(Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob set vehicle on fire, arson on highway.

February 28, 2002
Time: 11.55 am
PCR message
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No.6162 (Annexure IV File XV)

Riots have started at Sola Hospital & near High Court where bodies were brought.

February 28, 2002
Time: Not known
PCR message (Sola Hospital)
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No.?6172

Sola Hospital staff surrounded by 500-strong mob Please provide security at hospital urgently.

These revelations show how mobs were allowed to congregate at the hospital to take out funeral processions. Though violence had erupted, curfew was still not clamped.

Pande claimed in his statement before the SIT that he visited the Hospital at 10 am and found everything to be normal.

"I went to Sola Civil Hosptal around 10:00 and found that doctors were under pressure to complete the documentation wheras relatives were in a hurry to take the bodies. However, I didn't find anything alarming and as such returned around 11:00 am."

Pande also claimed there were no funeral processions, a claim accepted by the SIT. But the PCR messages show that there were not only processions but also riots at the hospital, nailing Pande's lies.

February 28, 2002
Time: 11:58 am
PCR message (Sola Hospital)
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 5907 & 5925(Annexure IV File XIV)

Funeral procession of 10 bodies taken out from Ramol Jantanagar to Hatkeshwar crematorium 6,000 people accompanied procession.

As funeral processions wound through the city, mobs ran amok at Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaam in Ahmedabad.

February 28, 2002
Time: Not known
PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha) Com/538
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 258 (Annexure III File XIX)

Funeral procession allowed at Khedbrahma town in Sabarkantha district

Situation tense, 2 Muslims stabbed at Khedbrahma

February 28, 2002
Time: Not known
PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha)
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 262 (Annexure III File XIX)

150 Bajrang Dal members on way to Khedbrahma.

February 28, 2002
Time: 3:32 pm
PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha)
State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 254 (Annexure III file XIX) Com/574

Funeral procession organised for Godhra train victim Babubhai Patel in Sabarkantha.

Special Investigation Team in its closure report on pages 59 to 64 had concluded there were no funeral processions and gave a clean-chit to the Gujarat government on this count.

PCR messages detailing incidence of violence in Ahmedabad clearly warned about a brewing unrest. Rioting was reported from Naroda and Meghani Nagar where Gulberg Society is located. The PCR messages of violence in Ahmedabad are contained in Annexure IV File XIV. Here are some samples of the several wireless messages sent by policemen on the ground.

Page No. 5798, 5803, 5804

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 12:30 am

PCR Message: Factory burnt at Ambikanagar on February 27

Area: Odhav

FIR No.80/02

Page No,: 5746

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 1:10 am

PCR Message: Between 2:30-3:00 pm on Feb 27, mob stoned bus, vandalized shop

Area: Bapunagar

FIR No.: 64/02

Page No.: 5768

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 2:38 am

PCR Message: Mob torched buses & rickshaws, damaged public property on Feb 27 at 5:15 pm

Area: Odhav

FIR No.:78/02

Page No.: 341, Order No. 534

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 8:25pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man succumbs to stab injuries on February 27 at 8:25 pm

Area: Meghani Nagar

FIR No.: 65/02

Page No.: 341, Order No. 534

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: Not Known

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man succumbs to injuries on Feb 27 at 7:45 pm at Saralaben Hospital.

Area: Meghani Nagar

FIR No.: 65/02

Page No.: 347, Order No. 8535

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 8:30 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man critically injured after attack at Ahmedabad railway station at 5 pm.

Area: Ahmedabad

FIR No: Not Known

Page No: 348, Order 541

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 9:30pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Juhapura resident attacked at V.F Hospital.

Area: Ahmedabad

FIR No: 116

Page No.: 5807 & 5808

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 4:28 am

PCR Message: One critically injured near Kathwada Road, Naroda, on February 27 at 7:30 pm.

Area: Naroda

FIR No.: 97/02

Page No.: 5805 & 5806

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 4:20 am

State Intelligence Bureau Message: One critically injured near Law Garden on February 27 at 8:15 pm.

Area: Ellisbridge

FIR No: 116/02

Page No.: 5801

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 3:50 am

State Intelligence Bureau Message: One critically injured in mob attack near Mahalaxmi Crossroad, Paldi on Feb 27 at 8:30 pm.

Area: Ellisbridge

FIR No.: 114/02

Inspite of all of this, the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner told the SIT that he didn't find the "circumstances on the 27th and 28th fit for curfew."

PCR and SIB reports show that there were regular inputs of VHP and Bajrang Dal led mobs swelling at Naroda and Gulberg Society.

Pande admitted before the SIT that at both these places curfew was declared only after 12:50 pm ...by then the mob had already swelled to between 10 and 15 thousand people in number. It is no wonder that the curfew that was finally imposed remained only on paper - it had no effect on the ground.

Hundred and fifty men, women and children were burnt and hacked to death at Naroda and Gulberg society in the four hours between 2 and 6 PM on February 28.

Police Headquarters at Shahibaug was only 2 to 3 kilometers from Gulberg Society and around 6 kilometers from Naroda Patiya.

Pande admitted before the SIT that through out the day he didn't move out of his office and visited Naroda Patiya and Gulberg only late in the evening...by that time the massacre was over and done with.

SIB messages show that there were three alerts about the impending massacre at Gulberg.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 12:15

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Muslims reside in Gulberg Society.

Mob is surrounding the place.

Strict watch should be kept there.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 14:50

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Mob of 3000 rioters has surrounded Gulberg Society, take immediate action.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 17:00

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Mob attacked the society from all sides Ehsan Jaffri and women and children burnt alive.

Houses are ablaze. Mob is looting from homes.

In his defence Pande said in his statement: "On 28.2.2002 requests were received from different police stations seeking additional force and SRP and whatever forces were available with me the same were dispatched. However, I found that no feedback had been received by any one of them. This led me to presumption that additional forces reached in time and they were able to control the situation."

SIT accepted Pande's defence and gave him and the Gujarat Administration a clean chit.

The state government told the SIT that the 2002 riots were a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra tragedy, but documentary evidence tells a different story.

Eleven years after the horrific incidents as Narendra Modi aspires for the prime minister's chair, Headlines Today has tried to throw fresh light on why his ascension remains so contentious.

(Source: India Today, April 15, 2013)

Prosecute ATS for Malegaon

By Yug Mohit Chaudhry

Friday, September 8, 2006: It was one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar --Shab-e-Barat - when bombs exploded at the Malegaon Chowk, and in a mosquecemetery compound, during the afternoon prayers. Thirty-one people were killed and 300 suffered injuries in the attacks that visibly targeted Muslims, but the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), in a predetermined manner, immediately blamed Muslim terrorists and arrested nine from the community.

This case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which, while investigating the Samjhauta Express blast, had uncovered evidence contradicting the ATS claims. After reinvestigating the Malegaon case, the NIA has confirmed that the ATS fabricated evidence against the accused, and that a Hindu terrorist group had perpetrated the blasts. Had the investigating officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kisan Shengal, succeeded in pulling off this miscarriage of justice, nine innocent people would have possibly been sentenced to death as terrorists, and their families tarnished with this stigma forever. According to the ATS, the blasts were perpetrated by Noorul Huda, Shabbir Masiullah, Raees Mansuri, Dr. Salman Aimi, Dr. Farogh Magdumi, Mohammed Ali Shaikh, Asif Khan, Mohammed Zahid Ansari and Abrar Ahmed. The ATS said that some of them had trained in Pakistani camps and that all had conspired to:

(a) Wage war against the government.

(b) Terrorize people through wanton killing and bomb blasts.

(c) Incite communal riots and disrupt public order.

(d) Indoctrinate Muslims into terrorist and secessionist ideology.

(e) Avail assistance from Pakistani terrorists.

The NIA's chargesheet debunks these claims comprehensively.

It states that:

(a) ATS witnesses for the alleged seizure of the RDX from the accused denied witnessing these events;

(b) An ATS witness to the alleged seizure of the fake bomb was also shown by the ATS as being present elsewhere simultaneously for the seizure of the deceased's clothes.

(c) The ATS's key witness denied seeing the accused making the bomb and said that "his statement was recorded under duress".

(d) An accused, who the ATS claimed had planted a bomb, was in Fulsawangi about 480 kms away at that time, and another who, the ATS claimed procured explosives, sheltered Pakistani terrorists, assembled the bomb, etc, was in jail.

(e) The blasts were carried outby Lokesh Sharma and others in furtherance of a larger terror conspiracy.
The ATS's false accusations, drawing on stock communal stereotypes equating Indian Muslims with anti-national activity, terrorism and Pakistan, display an institutional bias and communal antipathy unbecoming a secular state. They also manifest disrespect for truth and the judicial process, which, in a police force, is extremely worrying since evidence is easily fabricated and lives hang in the balance.

Investigation, especially in terrorist cases, must be scrupulously honest, not merely because of accused's rights, but also for our own safety: we have to be sure that the real culprits have been arrested and cannot re-offend. The NIA investigation confirms the belief that even in serious cases evidence is often fabricated, witness testimony coerced, incriminating articles planted, and innocent people falsely accused. Consequently, the administration of justice is brought into disrepute when judicial verdicts are believed to be based on tainted evidence. This has happened in numerous high profile cases, including the Parliament attack case.

Dishonest investigation, custodial torture and extra-judicial killings by the police are endemic in India and carried out with impunity: no policeman has been convicted for these offences in Maharashtra for over 15 years. Had a few rogue officers been punished, the ATS may not have dared to fabricate evidence in such an important case. However, courts and governments have routinely condoned these excesses and we have become inured. The Malegaon case, an egregious example, must be the starting point where we show our intolerance for such brazen lawlessness by law enforcers and make an example of them to deter others. The NIA's investigation establishes unequivocally that nine persons, who spent six years in custody, were innocent and were framed by ACP Shengal on a terrorist charge.

He planted RDX on them from a private stash, coerced a corroborative statement from a bogus witness and extorted fictitious confessions from them, which collectively would have sufficed to have them convicted and sent to the gallows. They are free today only because the NIA accidentally chanced upon evidence of their innocence. This must never be allowed to recur.

ACP Shengal must be suspended forthwith, and departmental and criminal proceedings initiated against him for making false accusations, fabricating evidence on a capital charge and coercing false testimony punishable under sections 193-195A, 197, 199, 211, 220 Indian Penal Code. If he is not prosecuted, other officers will do the same with impunity, and people will lose faith in the administration of justice. For all our sakes, and to maintain the integrity of democratic institutions, it is imperative that the government prosecutes Shengal in a manner that inspires confidence.

(Source: Mumbai Mirror, June 27, 2013)

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