Missing from the otherwise detailed sequence of events recounted by the Liberhan report into the Babri Masjid’s demolition is an account of the role played by the Congress leadership in getting the mosque, which had remained locked for decades, opened for Hindu worshippers in 1986.

When the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi dispute first flared up in 1949, the authorities decided to lock the disputed premises so that neither Hindus nor Muslims could use the act of worship to press their claims.

Tracing the rise of the Sangh Parivar’s anti-Babri Masjid campaign from 1984 onwards, Justice Liberhan describes how the central focus of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s movement was to get the mosque unlocked so that they could appropriate the space as a site of worship for Lord Ram.

On page 87 of his report, Mr. Liberhan describes the decision of the Faizabad district judge to unlock the mosque on February 1, 1986. One of the reasons the judge cited was a statement by the District Magistrate which said that the reopening of the mosque would not lead to any law and order problems.

What Justice Liberhan left out of his narrative was any consideration of the role played by the Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Bir Bahadur Singh, and Rajiv Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister at the time.

According to reports at the time, the Congress leadership, acting through Arun Nehru, ensured that the locks of the mosque were opened within an hour of the Faizabad judge’s ruling. What is more, television cameras were on hand to record the triumphant entry of Hindu worshippers.

The Congress strategy was to undercut the BJP’s temple campaign, but it backfired as the Sangh Parivar quickly seized the initiative.

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