Described by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as an ‘institution in himself’, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal– often called as the chief architect behind the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992– has died. A strong votary of Hindutva, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1942 and was deputed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1980. Singhal, whose aggressive championing of a Ram temple at the Mosque site in Ayodhya helped the BJP to scale new heights, was proud about the demolition. Here are some facts you must know about his role in the razing of 16th Century Mosque.
Singhal became working president of the VHP in 1984– the year the party organised a ‘Religious Parliament’ which sowed the seeds for the emotive campaign to destroy the Babri Mosque which the Hindutva votaries claimed was built at the site where Hindu god Rama was born.
1984 was also the year when the Bharatiya Janata Party bagged just two seats in India’s lower house of the parliament after prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Singhal’s aggressive promotion of the anti-Babri movement made him one of the best known faces nationally, and gave oxygen to the BJP to raise its parliament tally to 89 in 1989.
Even as the BJP, under L.K. Advani’s leadership, came out openly in support of the Ram Temple movement, Singhal led a massive crowd during the first assault on the Babri Masjid on October 30, 1990. That bid was beaten back and few Hindu workers (Karsevaks) were killed in police action. A Cobrapost investigation revealed Singhal’s role in the bid to demolish the mosque on October 30. Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP leader, was filmed in the Cobrapost video saying: if there is anybody to be blamed for the killing of karvsevaks, it has to be Ashok Singhal, none else:
“Toh mere saamne Ashok Singhal ji ne kaha Maharaj kuch log nahi marenge toh andolan upar nahi uthega toh aap agya do jaane ki … toh Ashok Singhal ji ne kaha … Vamdev ji ne kaha bache marenge toh bahut kaam kharab ho jayega … Bole Maharaj jab tak nahi marenge tab tak kuch hoga nahi andolan, tabhi barhega (Before me, Ashok Singhal said ‘Maharaj (to Vamdev), the movement would not gain momentum unless some people die’. This is what Ashok Singhal said. Maharaj Vamdev said it will be disastrous if children die. Ashok Singhal again said the movement will not get a fillip until they die).”
Unlike most BJP leaders who distanced themselves from the Babri razing, Singhal remained proud of the destruction – and vowed to end, one day, the secular character of the country that he said must be a “Hindu Rashtra”. Singhal even asked BJP leader LK Advani to stop regretting the demolition after the later had expressed his regrets over the demolition.
“December 6, 1992, is a day of valour for every Indian. It will be carved in golden letters in India’s history because not since the brave deeds of Shivaji Maharaj has the country seen something like this,” Singhal had said.
Jugal Kishore Shastri, an ex-RSS pracharak who was the founder member of the Ayodhya unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and left Sangh Parivar in 1986, is a witness to the demolition. His home-cum-temple, which is at stone’s throw from the then mosque, was also attacked by karsevaks on that day.
“Karsevaks in the leadership of Ashok Singhal of VHP and other Hindutva leaders demolished the mosque. They beat up journalists and about 50 people with kirpan attacked my temple. I told them that what they were doing was against Hinduism and this act would tarnish the image of the Hindu religion in the world. The act is anti national and anti constitution,” Shastri has stated
Singhal claimed that former Indian prime minister PV Narasimha Rao knew about the planning to demolish the mosque and had asked the RSS chief to inform him about the act at least a day before. He was the first senior right wing Hindu leader associated with ‘Ram Janambhoomi’ movement to confess about the role in demolition.
Cobrapost had unearthed the conspiracy behind the fall of demolition, exposing the actors who pulled the strings from behind the scene. As the investigation revealed, the conspiracy to demolish the mosque was hatched at the top level and those who were recruited for training did not know it till the countdown for mosque’s fall began a month before in November.
In June 1992, Bajrang Dal, for instance, conducted a month-long military style training for 38 of its cadre chosen from various regions in Sarkhej, Gujarat. The training was given by retired high-ranking military officers. Ideological teachings were imparted to the cadres by the likes of Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Acharya Dharmendra, Dr. Praveen Togadia, Jaibhan Pawaiya and Ashok Singhal.
The investigation found that Champat Rai Bansal, a close aide of Singhal was one of the architects of Laxman Sena which was entrusted with the task of razing Babri to the ground, taking advantage of the sea of restive karsevaks gathered there at Ayodhya.
Singhal was deeply unhappy over BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s refusal to embrace Hindutva ideology after becoming the prime minister. The VHP leader beamed when Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014. On Tuesday, after Singhal’s death, Modi said he was “an inspiration for generations”.
“I was always fortunate to receive Ashokji’s blessings and guidance. My condolences to his family and countless supporters,” Modi tweeted.