A police officer present at the scene of the Babri Masjid's demolition in 1992 will take the witness stand in a Rae Bareli court on Friday as a witness for the prosecution against L.K. Advani and other sangh parivar leaders accused of inciting violence 17 years ago.
Anju Gupta, who joined the elite Indian Police Service in 1990, was posted as Mr. Advani's personal security officer during the period when the Bharatiya Janata Party was bringing its supporters to Ayodhya for ‘kar seva' at the mosque, claimed by the sangh parivar to be the birthplace of Lord Rama. As PSO, her job was to stick close to the BJP leader and keep track of his movements and meetings. Shortly after the mosque was destroyed, she deposed before the Central Bureau of Investigation, which was tasked with investigating the crime and prosecuting those responsible.
There were more than a dozen senior officers from the IAS, IPS, Provincial Civil Service and Central paramilitaries present in and around the site but none was willing to make a statement to the CBI outlining what they saw on that fateful day. The one exception was the young Anju Gupta, who made a detailed statement describing what various BJP leaders, including Mr. Advani, were saying and doing while the frenzied mob assembled by them demolished the 16th century mosque.
Ms. Gupta's statement formed a crucial part of the criminal case the CBI eventually filed against Mr. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Ritambhara in 1993.
The eight were initially charged with various sections of the IPC, including 120B (conspiracy), 147, 149, 153A, 153B and 505, mainly dealing with inflammatory speeches and incitement. “I did not see these leaders making any attempt to prevent the kar sevaks from demolishing the disputed structure,” the CBI chargesheet quoted Ms. Gupta as saying. “On the fall of the domes, all the said eight accused and Acharya Dharmendra etc were congratulating one another. All were expressing happiness.”
The conspiracy charge was dropped and in 2003 Mr. Advani was discharged entirely. In July 2005, however, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court reinstated the charges of intentionally provoking people into rioting, arson and indulging in rioting with intent to create disorder, as well as creating discord among communities.
Some five years later, the Rae Bareli court has made little progress in concluding the case. But with Ms. Gupta — who is now an officer with the Research & Analysis Wing — set to take the witness stand, the trial is likely to come alive again.