Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BJP breathes easy after Librehan report

24 Nov 2009


By Jal Khambata/R Rajagopalan

NEW DELHI: A day after the 17-year old Ayodhya's Babri Mosque demolition inquiry report's leakage gripped the nation's attention once again, the government on Tuesday came out with an anti-climax of taking action against nobody, making the BJP leaders, including Lal Krishna Advani, facing indictment breathe easy.

The mandatory 'Action Taken Report' (ATR) tabled in Parliament with the probe report of Justice Manmohan Singh Inquiry Commission turns out to be a damp quib as it specifically says "no action" against those indicted since the demolition cases are already pending in two special courts at Lucknow and Rae Bareli.

The only assurance that came forth in the 13-page ATR is to take steps to expedite hearing of these cases: Against eight in the Rae Bareli court and against "unknown karsewaks" and 47 other cases pending in the Lucknow court.

Steering clear of action against 68 BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders indicted
by the Commission for creating the communal euphoria that led to the breaking down of the historic mosque on December 6, 1992, the ATR concentrates only on the academic issues raised in the Commission's bulky report.

The ATR makes absolutely no reference to the indictment of top BJP leaders, including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and leaders of various Sangh Parivar outfits figuring in the probe report. The alleged indictment of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that provoked the BJP on Monday also could not be confirmed as probe report mounted on the Home Ministry's website remained inaccessible throughout the day.

MIDNIGHT OIL: The Home Ministry sources said Home Minister P Chidambaram, a senior advocate by profession, worked whole night personally drafting the ATR, lest hand over of the probe report to others for the job risks more leaks causing more embarrassment.

The draft was dittoed by the Union Cabinet at its emergency meeting in the morning under chairmanship of the seniormost Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, though Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters later that the ATR is only a "hurried document" and expect more action after the comprehensive study of the Commission's findings.

Copies of the bulky report of more than 900 pages could not be made overnight nor could it be translated into Hindi, a statutory requirement, and as such the MPs were provided just the ATR that refers to the recommendations on which the government agreed, disagreed or noted.

The MPs were told to download the English version of the report (Libcomm.pdf) from the Home Ministry's website that became so slow from so many trying to get it first that it became well-neigh impossible to have it to check it with what all has leaked from it in the last two days.

DEBATE ON DEC 1: The Lok Sabha will be discussing the Liberhan Commission's report only after a week on December 1, and that will give the members enough time to download and study it.

The leaks, it is now learnt, were masterminded by the dirty tricks department of the Congress to put the BJP on defence and break the unity it has managed with other opposition parties. Those in the department, however, lied low on Tuesday and did not fault Chidambaram for hoisting no names in the ATR as Sonia Gandhi had expressed displeasure in a meeting with the senior Congress leaders over the ruling party's acts and omissions giving handle to the BJP to keep Parliament paralysed for the first three days of the winter session.

BACK IN BUSINESS: There were adjournments of both the Houses on Tuesday as well on the Liberhan Commission report and other issues, but the second half saw them getting down to business. The Rajya Sabha saw an ugly fracas when Samajwadi General Secretary Amar Singh objecting to the BJP members raising "Jai Shriram" slogans led to a virtual physical fight, though both sides apologised later when the House re-assembled and ended bad blood.

The BJP was not expecting the government to yield so fast on the same lines on which it reversed a controversial sugarcane price order on Saturday under the Opposition's pressure.

Finding the issue on which it had forced adjournment of both the Houses vanishing with the Liberhan report tabled, the BJP was in the blind at the prospects of the Lok Sabha discussing the price rise listed to be taken up from 4 pm.

Its deputy leader Sushma Swaraj suggested the discussion be taken up on Wednesday on the excuse that importance of the issue affecting everybody will be lost if discussed and disposed off late in the evening. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal suggested its postponement to Thursday and the agreement reached to start the debate immediately after the question hour. The House thus got time to discuss and pass two Bills on the agenda.

Most of the recommendations of the Commission on which the government ha reacted in the ATR were general in nature regarding politics and religion, role of civil services and intelligence agencies, separate riot control police, and Centre-state relations.

SPECIFIC ON BABRI: The only one with specific Babri Mosque controversy recommended the government set up a statutory national commission of acknowledged experts to delve into questions of the provenance of historical monuments, artifacts, etc. for "definite and final determination."

The government, however, rejected the recommendation on the ground that this role is already played by the Archeological Survey of India and it would suffice to strengthen its functions as also associate the finest historians, anthropologists and archaeologists from within and outside the country as recommended by Justice Liberhan.

In his report, the retired Supreme Court judge has stressed the disputes over the provenance of monuments, temples or other structures like the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue cannot be resolved without the help of experts.

"The question whether a structure was a temple or a mosque can only be answered by a scientific study by archeologists, historians and anthropologists. No politician, jurist or journalist, learned though they may be, can provide a comprehensive answer to such questions and any attempt to hijack the issue can only result in the chaotic consequences which resulted in the events of December 6, 1992," the Commission report said. The government agreed with this contention but not on setting up a separate commission to settle such disputes.

The Commission wanted politicians not to hold offices in religious organisations, charities and trusts constituted on religious grounds, specially those holding constitutional offices, cabinet positions or other similar responsibilities.

The government accepted in part with modifications, stating that it agrees that "political leaders, etc. holding public office should not simultaneously hold positions of responsibility in religious organisations." 

The Commission wanted a law for exemplary punishment for misuse of religion or caste to acquire political power. It also sought regional tribunals for swift implementation of the law. The government flaunted its Communal Violence (Prevention, control and rehabilitation of victims) Bill, saying it also contemplates special courts to deal with the violators.


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