Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the “purported” contents of the Liberhan Commission report leaked to a newspaper and a television channel. From what has been reported, variously and even contradictorily in respect of some key details, Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan’s main findings are as follows. The destruction of the Babri Masjid, far from being “spontaneous,” as bigwigs of the Bharatiya Janata Party have claimed, was systematically planned, “tailor-made” — as revealed by the mode of assault, the small number of kar sevaks (with faces hidden) assigned to the job of demolition, the easy availability of the instruments of destruction, and other preparations onsite. A whole range of sangh parivar organisations under the hegemony of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as well as the Shiv Sena were involved. All this is well known and it is only the detail, the nuances, and the specifics of the evidence presented on the actual perpetrators and the enablers of the vile and barbaric act that will be of fresh interest. Several second-rung BJP leaders have reportedly been indicted by the Liberhan Commission. But what about the role of the top-rung BJP leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, and Murli Manohar Joshi? This part of the Commission’s report probably has the most political punch. The judge has reportedly held them culpable in the matter of creating communal discord, for being party to the fateful decisions, and for lacking the capacity to stand up to the RSS, which used them as pliable “tools.” It is not clear what the Commission’s verdict is on the role of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, under whose watch the demolition took place. At the very least, it was a dishonourable and tragic role.

The BJP’s petulant allegation that the government “selectively” leaked the report will find few takers, especially when one considers the question of motivation. Why would the government leak the report to the news media at a time when that would pose a real risk of upstaging a high-stake visit by the Prime Minister to Washington? But then the leak occurred because the government sat on the findings of an exercise that took more than 16 years to discover and establish “the sequence of events leading, and all facts and circumstances relating” to the demolition of the Babri Masjid by communal vandals on December 6, 1992. The habit of withholding from Parliament and the public the findings of expensive Commissions of Inquiry, which lack teeth in any case, until ‘action taken’ reports are readied by a slow-moving bureaucracy is indefensible. It devalues the whole exercise, aggravates the already indefensible delays, and serves up plenty of opportunity for motivated campaigns, speculation, and leaks. The news media in the present case, The Indian Express and NDTV 24x7, certainly cannot be faulted for doing their best to penetrate the veil of secrecy and get the essential findings out. This role is demonstrably in the cause of truth-discovery, and serious journalists and editors are not going to be deterred by sanctimonious cries of ‘breach of parliamentary privilege.’ The crime, which resulted in communal violence on a large scale, may have taken place close to 17 years ago but truth-discovery is a pre-requisite for the process of healing wounds and social reconciliation. Learning the right lesson from this episode, the Congress-led government owes it to the nation to table the Liberhan Commission report immediately.

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