New Delhi: Calling it an act that destroyed India's image as a pluralistic nation, President Pranab Mukherjee, in the second part of his memoirs 'The Turbulent Years, 1980-1996', has written that the 'inability to prevent the demolition of Babri Masjid was one of the biggest failures of then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao'.
"The inability to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid was one of PV (Narasimha Rao)'s biggest failures. He should have entrusted the task of tough negotiations with other political parties to a more senior and seasoned politician familiar with politics in UP - like ND Tiwari," Mukherjee wrote in the book, which was released by Vice President Hamid Ansari at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday.
He also questioned the decision of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to open the site for prayers. "The opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple site on 1 February 1986 was perhaps another error of judgement. People felt these actions could have been avoided. People felt these actions could have been avoided."
Mukherjee writes that matters took a 'dramatic turn after the fall of the Babri Masjid'. "Sitaram Kesri created a scene, collapsing into tears and disrupting a Cabinet meeting at which I was present. I had to tell him, 'There is no reason to be melodramatic. All of you were members of the Cabinet and some of you were members of the CCPA. All decisions were taken in the meetings of the Cabinet and CCPA. Responsibility is collective; the onus cannot only be on the Prime Minister or Home Minister'."
"Later, in a private meeting with PV, I did not mince words. I burst out, 'Was there no one who advised you of the dangers? Did you not understand the global repercussions of any damage to the Babri Masjid? At least now take concrete steps to quell communal tensions and assuage the feelings of Muslims through affirmative action'," Mukherjee writes.
"PV looked at me as I said this, and in his characteristic style did not let any emotion cross his face. But I had known and worked with him for several decades. I did not need to read his face. I could feel his sadness and disappointment. I have often wondered later if it was this outburst of mine which finally led to the call I received from him on 17 January 1993, inviting me to join the Cabinet."
Mukherjee calls the demolition an act of 'absolute perfidy, which should make all Indians hang their heads in shame'.
"It was the senseless, wanton destruction of a religious structure, purely to serve political ends. It deeply wounded the sentiments of the Muslim community in India and abroad. It destroyed India's image as a tolerant, pluralistic nation..." the President writes.
"In fact, the Foreign Minister of an important Islamic country later pointed out to me that such damage had not been inflicted on a mosque even in Jerusalem, which has seen religious conflicts for centuries."
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's campaign to collect bricks from all over the country and take to Ayodhya caused communal tension, he writes.
The period of 1989-91, Mukherjee writes, was a phase dominated by violence and bitter divisions within Indian society. "Insurgency and cross border terrorism broke out in Jammu and Kashmir; the Ram JanmabhoomiMandir-Babri Masjid issue rocked the nation. Finally, a suicide bomber brought Rajiv's life to an abrupt and tragic end on 21 May 1991."