The Babri mosque dates back nearly 500 years when it was built in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, a commander of the first Mughal emperor Babur, in 1528. Hence the mosque's name, Babri Masjid. Photo: AFP
It was not only some of his Cabinet colleagues like Arjun Singh, ML Fotedar, Jaffer Sharief that PV Narasimha Rao accused of duplicity before and after the Babri Masjid demolition. In his book Ayodhya 6 December 1992 (Penguin), the late Prime Minister obliquely suggested that the BJP had scuppered a possible solution to the temple dispute in the early part of 1992 to keep the Ayodhya pot boiling.
Till August 1992, Rao recalled his book, his talks with ‘apolitical’ sadhus and sanyasis on how and where a Ram temple could be built in Ayodhya ‘without breaking the law or upsetting communal harmony’ were proceeding quite well.
Then, all of a sudden, the sadhus broke off the talks. Four months later, the mosque was demolished by hordes of kar sevaks.
“Why did they (the sadhus) go back on their promise (to explore all avenues towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute)”, Rao wondered. He then offered without naming the BJP what he felt was a plausible explanation: “It was clear that there was a change of mind on their (the sadhus’) part or, what is more likely, on the part of political forces that controlled them.”
ALSO READ: The entire timeline of the Ayodhya dispute
“These forces deliberately wanted to get out of (a) friendly situation which the sanyasis were getting into with me and which, if left to itself, would have made the mandir issue wholly apolitical,” Rao wrote, adding, "This subtle aspect of Ram Janmabhoomi matter was very important and brings home the undeniable fact that while Hindu masses were swayed by their devotion to Ram and their intense desire for the temple, the political forces behind the issue could not care less for the temple -- they only wanted to retain a long-term, vote-rich communal issue for as long as they could.”
Till August 1992, Rao had been in constant touch with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership at Nagpur to try and resolve the Ayodhya dispute amicably. Congress leaders such as VN Gadgil and Vasant Sathe acted as his emissaries.
Rao had also sought the help of many apolitical saints, such as Jain Muni Acharya Sushil and his spiritual guru based in Ramtek (Maharashtra), to prevail upon the Sangh-Vishwa Hindu Parishad to go slow on Ayodhya.
Several sadhus and sants such as Mahant Avaidyanath, Vamdeoji Maharaj, Ramchandradas Paramhans, Mahant Nrityagopal Das, Swami Paramanandji, Swami Chinmayananda and Pejawar Swamiji had held several meetings with Rao at 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi. [Now renamed Lok Kalyan Marg]
After arguing that a political group’s “majority communal orientation” and its need to keep Ayodhya as a “permanent, evergreen issue” led it to scuttle the talks, Rao made another interesting point claiming that the demand was not for just one temple more had been lined up, so that the agitation could be kept alive even if the issues of one or two specific temples were settled.
“The number was three (Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi) and for good measure, in the unlikely event of all the three temple issues being settled amicably (unfortunately for them), there was a never-ending store of more than 3,000 controversial temples lined up all over the country!” Rao writes.
To his dismay, when he explained these finer points to his Cabinet colleagues, they did not help him. Instead, they made him a scapegoat. “It was me that they demolished,” Rao rued in his book that was published a year after his death in 2005.