The mills of the gods grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine is a dictum meant to bring comfort for those who wait long for justice. But in the Babri masjid case, the course of justice while being excruciatingly slow has not been particularly productive so far. The Supreme Court’s decision to reopen the criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders such as LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti – Kalyan Singh being a governor has immunity for the duration of his term – comes nearly a quarter of a century after the fateful day on which the ancient mosque in Ayodhya was razed to the ground by frenzied Hindu mobs. This singular act of violence changed India’s political landscape forever, deepening the faultlines of polarisation and communalisation. The deadly riots which followed Mr Advani’s rath yatra brought a militant Hindutva to the fore and claimed the lives of over 2,000 people.
Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence and various commissions, the most notable presided over by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, which was set up 10 days after the event, justice has never been seen to be done in the case. The Liberhan commission clearly stated when it finally submitted its report seven years later that BJP politicians involved were to blame. Yet the case has dragged on and now the Supreme Court has given the proceedings another two years. Many of those named in the cases relating to the destruction of the mosque have died, others have been let off.
It is inexplicable why the process has taken so long and that too in such a landmark case. Much of what happened over the course of the past 25 years has faded from public memory and we know very little of what became of those who lost loved ones and property in the malevolent aftermath of the fall of the mosque. The Babri case is indicative of how justice that has been delayed so much eventually amounts to justice denied. This should occasion a serious review of how badly and ineffectively the criminal justice system works. However, even at this late stage, the fact that the court has said there will be no adjournments is welcome. Ideally, the submission of the Liberhan report should have seen the case concluded. The court’s move may be a setback to the BJP’s veteran leaders. But it is equally a setback for those who have been waiting 25 years for some sort of closure.
Hindustan Times, April 20, 2017