Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
Wikimedia Commons

A day ahead of Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary, a new book claimed that the late PPM was unaware of the unlocking of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi in February 1986.

Written by Rajiv Gandhi’s close friend Wajahat Habibullah, it claims that Rajiv believed the government had no right to ‘interfere in matters like determination of the functioning of places of worship.

Wajahat Habibullah was an officer part of the J&K cadre who was part of Rajiv Gandhi’s PMO.

He writes in the book titled My Years With Rajiv Gandhi Triumph and Tragedy that Rajiv Gandhi claimed he wasn’t involved in the decision leading up to its unlocking.

He is reported to have said: “No Government has any business to interfere in matters like determination of the functioning of places of worship. I knew nothing of this development till I was told of it after the orders had been passed and executed.”

Habibullah, who incidentally is an Doon Old Boy, said he asked Rajiv Gandhi about the unlocking.

Rajiv reportedly replied: "Yet I had not been informed of this action, and have asked Vir Bahadur Singh (then chief minister of UP, under whose watch, and as rumoured, under whose instructions the magistrate had taken this fateful, or shall I call it fatal decision) to explain. I suspect it was Arun (Nehru) and Fotedar (Makhan Lal) who were responsible, but I am having this verified. If that is true I will have to consider action.”

Habibullah says the conversation took place in September 1986. A local court in Fazabad, on February 1, 1986 had vacated a stay order passed in 1948 to maintain status quo at the site.

The new revelations raise many questions including why it took 30 years to surface. The Congress had also gone to town during the Ayodhya Bhoomi Pujan taking credit for the event.

Former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya had said former Rajiv Gandhi had wanted the Ram Temple to come up.

"The centre of our faith is Lord Ram!And today, the country is being run with trust in the Lord Ram. That's why we all wish that a grand temple should be built at the birthplace of Ram in Ayodhya. (late PM) Rajiv Gandhiji also wanted the same," he tweeted.

Amid accusations of minority appeasement after the Shah Bano case , Rajiv Gandhi is often charged with laying the foundation of temple politics. Looking to counter BJP’s accusations of ‘pseudo-secularism’, Rajiv Gandhi’s actions lay the foundation for the temple politics that would wreak havoc and lay waste in the country, killing thousands.

While former President Pranab Mukherjee called it an error of judgement, Madhav Godbole, Union Home Secretary accused Rajiv Gandhi of trying to use the Hindutva plank to get some voters.

He wrote in his book The Babri Masjid Ram Mandir Dilemma: An Acid Test for India's Constitution:

"Rajiv Gandhi remained focused on pleasing the fundamentalists among the Muslims and the Hindus; the Muslims by getting the Muslim Women's Divorce Act enacted, and later, the Hindus, by getting the locks of the 'temple in the mosque' in Ayodhya opened, permitting shilanyas (foundation stone-laying) of the new temple, and even starting the Congress party's Lok Sabha election campaign from Ayodhya to usher in Ram Rajya. I would unhesitatingly call Rajiv Gandhi the second most prominent kar sevak, after Nayar, the district magistrate of Faizabad, who encouraged the clandestine placement of the Ram Lalla idol in the Babri Masjid on December 22, 1949."

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal