A special CBI court in Lucknow has acquitted all 32 accused in the 28-year old Babri Masjid demolition case, citing lack of evidence against the accused. As per the verdict, the court found that the demolition of the masjid was not pre-planned, the authenticity of the audio and video recordings provided by the CBI could not be proved, and that in the final analysis anti-social elements demolished the structure and the accused even tried to stop them.
With this veteran BJP leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti stand acquitted. But the verdict also raises some pertinent questions. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was a dark day for Indian democracy. It took place in front of news cameras. The Supreme Court had acknowledged it as a crime that shook the secular fabric of India. It now appears that Indian democracy, law enforcement agencies and the judicial system are powerless to enforce rule of law in the face of brute majoritarianism. If the demolition of the masjid and accompanying riots are seen simply as the outpouring of mass emotion, what is the guarantee that such outpourings won’t recur and direct its ire at other minority targets? Is mob rule and anarchic violence then to be India’s future destiny?
It is precisely because the Indian legal system has time and again failed to comprehensively prosecute mob violence that riots keep recurring under a culture of impunity. However, such violence can be easily suppressed or nipped in the bud through timely police intervention and strict prosecution of troublemakers. It is precisely because the system is constantly looking over its shoulder for fear of upsetting political masters that matters escalate and go beyond control. The Babri verdict once again forces the Indian police-judicial system to take a hard look at itself.