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Eyewitness in Ayodhya....
A job well-planned 

Rajiv Bagchi was there when the Babri Masjid was brought down. He says that it was clearly a pre-planned, professionally executed operation Itís been eight years now, but the images keep crowding the mind. The initial euphoria cries of joy and sorrow, the chaos, and finally, the huge domed structure coming down to the ground with a heavy thud.

Not a soul present in Ayodhya on that black Sunday afternoon had any doubt that it was all a craftily-planned operation designed to bring down the 400-year-old Babri Masjid brick by brick. There was no bomb, no explosion, only the madness of the rampaging kar sevaks and the sound of the pickaxe chipping away at the mosque.

Mark the sequence of events in the run-up to December 6. Kar sevaks were packed into Ayodhya and most of them were ignorant of the events that unfolded. All they knew was what the Sangh Parivar had told them: that the shilanyas of a Ram temple would take place in the foreground of the Babri Masjid.

On December 5, the BJP had organized an elaborate drill in the ground adjacent to the Masjid. Men and women in saffron were paraded in front of the national and international media. They, reporters were told, would file past the shilanyas sthal chanting mantras. Piles of bricks, ĎRamí inscribed on them, were stacked in one corner of the ground. They would be used to lay the foundation of the Ram temple, local BJP leaders announced.

No harm would be done to the Babri Masjid, Sangh Parivar chieftains repeatedly told the media.

At a press briefing later in the evening, Giriraj Kishore, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, dismissed speculations about any harm meant to Babri Masjid. It was a religious ceremony that the Sangh had planned, Kishore kept repeating.

But even as this aged Sangh sadhu was preaching peace, barely 500 metres away, Vinay Katiyar, the Bajrang Dal MP from Faizabad, was not sure that the shilanyas would pass off peacefully. Surrounded by Bajrang Dal members sporting saffron bandanas, Katiyar pointed to the Babri Masjid in front of him. "This is symbol of injustice," he said, "and Hindus will set right the wrong."

But would the shilanyas pass off peacefully? Katiyar smiled. He wasnít as sure as his Parivar peers. In fact, he was angry that the shilanyas of the Ram temple was taking place in the foreground of the Masjid. And he did not hide his emotions. "Thatís not where we planned the mandir. It should be on that hill," he said, pointing to the Babri Masjid.

In one corner of the room where Katiyar was sitting talking to the media, lay a pile of pickaxes, ropes and shovels. What were they meant for? Katiyar pleaded ignorance. "I really donít know. All I can say is that they have been brought here by my followers. Thereís more in the room next to this. Maybe they would be used for the shilanayas, to remove the mud. But I canít say whatís going to happen tomorrow. You see, we have more than a lakh devotees have walked through the room, many caught sight of heftily-built kar sevaks working with ropes and shovels in the small ground adjacent to Katiyarís home. There was this nagging suspicion that something was amiss, something was being planned away from the public eye.

The first sings of trouble came around 10 a.m. on December 6. After brief speeches by BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, kar sevaks started filing past the shilanyas sthal. Suddenly, a group of people started pelting stones at the Babri Masjid. The small group of policemen around the Masjid took the brunt of the attack, but beat a hasty retreat after the stones rained on them.

Initially, most of the kar sevaks were taken by surprise and started fleeing the area. But a group of young men sporting Bajrang Dal badges stopped them, asking them to scale the barricade around the Masjid.

The barbed wire fencing soon gave way and a wave of kar sevaks stormed the Babri Masjid. Behind them came the demolition squads of the Sangh Parivar, armed with pickaxes, ropes, shovels and iron rods. And even while there was complete chaos all around, the prayer hall of the Masjid packed with thousands of people, the demolition squads went about their job of bringing down the structure with professional expertise.

They went for the pillars first, while another group climbed on top of the huge domes, loosening the mortar with their axes and bringing down brick after brick with makeshift pulleys made out of ropes. Outside the Masjid, youths sporting saffron bands kept people away. Photographers who had rushed near the Masjid to take shots were beaten up and warned not to click. Journalists too were beaten up. It was obviously all a well-planned operation.

It took roughly four hours to raze the Babri Masjid. The inside of the Masjid was cleared of all people and the base pillars on which the structure was resting were brought down one after another. Only a team trained in demolishing buildings could have done the job so competently and in so short a time.

The task of razing the structure over, it was time for the temple to come up. Bamboos, tarpaulin sheets and the idols surfaced as if from nowhere. As politicians debated on the future course of action, the Ram Lalla temple was there on the site where once stood the Babri Masjid.

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