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Advani and Joshi fumble and contradict each other in front of Liberhan
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

The two union ministers, Mr. LK Advani and Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi fumbled a few times during their deposition before the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry during the second week of June and made some contradictory, wrong and misleading statements.

Mr. Advani defended the kar sewa undertaken on October 30, 1990 for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. He said that when he heard the radio news of the kar sewa in Mata Tila in Jhansi, where he was under detention, it was one of the happiest moments of his life. He was happy because the kar sewaks would enter the vicinity of the disputed structure despite heavy barricades put up by the then Mulayam Singh Yadav government in the state.

On the other hand, Dr. Joshi did not approve of the kar sewa undertaken in July 1992 for the construction of the temple in view of the court injunction. But when the Commission counsel pointed out that the white paper issued by his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, had hailed the kar sewa, he did not give a direct reply. But at another time, Dr. Joshi virtually contradicted his earlier stand and commented that since the Narasimha Rao government did not show any interest to resolve the issue through talks, “the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and sants decided to perform the kar sewa” which apparently meant that he had supported the action of the Parishad.

Mr. Advani during his deposition disapproved of the demolition of the structure describing it as unfortunate but defended the kar sewaks’ action. But the moot question is what is the need of kar sewa it was not for the construction of the Ram Temple and for that purpose the disputed structure had to be demolished first. Moreover, kar sewa could not be undertaken without violating the court orders.

Mr. Advani blamed the V.P. Singh government’s decision to withdraw an ordinance that proposed the Supreme Court to find out whether a temple pre-existed at the mosque at the site. But the ordinance was hastily withdrawn due to the pressure from the Babri mosque movement supporters and the threat from the then U.P. Chief Minister, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav. Likewise he said that the V.P. Singh government had also withdrawn an ordinance, issued on October 1990, to acquire 67 acres of undisputed land around the Babri Mosque structure. He felt that the move should have taken the dispute over the title of the land outside the court’s jurisdiction. He alleged that the government had withdrawn the ordinance only to appease a particular community. He said that his party had welcomed the ordinances as it felt that they might have led to a solution to the issue.

But a pertinent question arises that if the two ministers had felt that the issuance of the two ordinances had facilitated a solution to the dispute, why then the present government had not come forward to do so. In fact the former Prime Minister Mr. V.P. Singh had dared the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, of which the BJP is the main partner, to issue such ordinances to solve the dispute. “If the ordinances were magic wands, then what prevented the present government from issuing them”, Mr. Singh asked. Moreover, Mr. Singh said that the BJP is in power both at the centre and in the state now and there is no problem for it in doing so. He, however, pointed out that “the constraints their government is facing now are the same as we were facing at that time”. In fact Mr. Singh has said that he was eager to depose before the Commission to make his stand clear.

Commenting on the statement of Mr. Advani that he had opposed the issuance of the ordinances, Mr. Yadav alleged that the union minister was misleading the people. Mr. Yadav said Mr. Advani’s statement that Mr. V.P. Singh had offered to do kar sewa was baseless. “If Mr. Advani really wanted to solve the Ayodhya dispute, as he stated during his deposition, then why he took out rath yatra which led to violence in the country”, he asked.

Mr. Advani also tried to put wrong information before the Commission. He stated that there was a similarity between the Somnath and Ayodhya movements. In this context, he said that the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had asked all Indian embassies to send water and earth from their respective countries for consecration at Somnath. But the Commission counsel confronted the union minister on this information and pointed out that Nehru had in fact expressed his anger and disgust on this missive to the embassies. The counsel had even produced a letter Nehru had sent to K.M. Munshi in this respect to prove his point. Mr. Advani had to cut a sorry figure on this issue.

On the other hand, Dr. Joshi had to admit before the Commission that 2.77 acres of land acquired by the Uttar Pradesh government in October 1991 was to facilitate the construction of the temple and to reduce the conflict to the minimum. This was at variance about the motive given by the state government to take over the land. The then state government under Mr. Kalyan Singh had mentioned that the land was being acquired for developing tourism and creating facilities for the pilgrims!
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