One of three Indian-government ministers, who face charges over the destruction of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in 1992, has finally given in to judicial pressure to appear before an enquiry into an outrage that refuses to go away, thanks to the courage and steadfastness of Indian Muslims. But the nearest thing to an apology L. K. Advani would allow himself to give was to say that those who destroyed the mosque “took a wrongful course”. Clearly a member of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and of the government of the world’s ‘largest democracy’ and regional superpower cannot be expected to apologise to Muslims. Similarly George Bush, the president of the “only superpower in the world”, could not bring himself to apologise to China over the incident in which a Chinese pilot was killed after his plane collided with a US spy-plane in China’s airspace. All he could say was that he was sorry the Chinese pilot had died.
Advani, along with two other ministers in the government of Atal Behari Vajpayee, faces charges after India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) named all three as part of a criminal conspiracy to raze the Babri Masjid. But although the demolition of the mosque has poisoned India’s social, political and economic life and resulted in the deaths of thousands of people (most of them Muslim) and the destruction of Muslim properties and businesses, the CBI’s case against the three ministers has been stuck in the courts since October 1993. The government, far from speeding up the resolution of the problem, has been obstructing it. Only last December Vajpayee caused the issue to flare up again when he said that building a Hindu temple on the site of the Babri ruins would be a response to “national sentiment” and part of the “unfinished agenda” of his government.
It is because of this Hindu jingoism in the Indian judicial, governmental and legislative sectors that Advani has been able to avoid appearing before the Liberhan commission of enquiry, set up eight years ago, simply by saying that he was too busy to do so. When he finally did appear before the commission on April 10, it was only because the judges had felt too embarrassed to continue to accept such a ridiculous excuse, forcing him to attend. But his appearance must surely have come as a great anti-climax. Having first said that those who had destroyed the mosque “took a wrongful course”, he added that the incident “was one of the most depressing days of my life” and that he regarded “what happened as unfortunate and painful”.
Advani was head of the BJP, which was instrumental in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The only reason for it to be “unfortunate” and “painful” to him was that he later lost the leadership of his party to Vajpayee because of the upheaval following the destruction of the mosque. Both men have since repeatedly claimed that they and their supporters were not involved, and that Hindu zealots acting spontaneously were alone responsible. But these claims are clearly contradicted by evidence gathered by the CBI as well as by testimony given to previous enquiries. It is also at variance with the accounts of Hindu terrorists who took part in the mosque’s destruction, whose testimonies have been published as interviews by Hindu fascist groups. All three types of evidence indicate that the destruction was planned meticulously. But in addition the accounts also show that three terrorist groups allied to the BJP were being trained as ‘demolition squads’ just outside Ayodhya.
Clearly neither Advani nor Vajpayee is going to apologise for the vandalism. Far from doing so, indeed, they continue to encourage violence against Muslims by Hindu terrorists linked to their party. The burning of copies of the Qur’an in Delhi is one of the most recent outrages directed against Muslims by Hindu fundamentalists. The disturbances in Kanpur on Friday March 9, which erupted as a result of anti-government demonstrations organised by the Congress party, served as an excuse for Hindu terrorists to attack Muslims, who happened to join the demonstration Friday prayer. And with the police and paramilitary forces siding with the terrorists, the attacks led to the murders of at least 35 Muslims in different areas of India; five mosques were also destroyed. Ever B. Pathak, the magistrate who ordered the police to arrest the terrorists, was set upon and killed by BJP thugs.
Meanwhile, the US president, who has not been long enough in his job yet to order similar mayhem, is showing an equal degree of arrogance by refusing to apologise to the Chinese. Not only did he refuse offers of mediation, but he also insisted that it was the Chinese who had been responsible for the collision. And although Bush has not yet found the time to order new massacres of Muslims like those committed by the BJP government, the arrogance he is showing already indicates that he is capable of doing so. After all, he is guilty of keeping in place the sanctions initiated by his father against Iraq, which have been responsible for the deaths of more than a million Iraqi civilians so far. Surely it is not a coincidence that the arrogance of the ‘only superpower’ and of the ‘only regional superpower’ has claimed mostly Muslim lives.