When cop joined kar sevaks to shout Jai Shri Ram
Deccan Chronicle| sanjay kaw
One person who was staying with me in the tent told me that all the arrangements had been made by the RSS..
Activists of RSS, Bajrang Dal and the VHP pull down a huge rock during their practice sessions near Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. (Photo: Archive of Sondeep Shankar)
Among the hundreds and thousands of kar sevaks armed with hammers and shovels, I wormed my way as an undercover for the Statesman newspaper to the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya way back in December 1992. Before going to the holy town, I was told that all kar sevaks were being issued parichay patras (letters of introduction). To obtain this, I visited the BJP unit in south Delhi’s Ambedkar Nagar. I convinced the party office-bearer there that I was a Kashmiri Pandit who had to abandon his studies because of militancy in the Valley. He gave me the letter on hearing my story.
For this subterfuge, I took on the name of Sanjay Kaul. In Ayodhya, I was put through intense grilling to establish my credentials as a kar sevak. Several times I had to recite an apocryphal tale of being a Kashmiri migrant who had abandoned his studies because of militant activity. It was terrifying to see the extent to which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal combine had gone to ensure there was no infiltration. All through my stay in Ayodhya, the BJP’s letter proved to be my sole protection. After I was accepted as "genuine", I saw first hand the face of religious zealotry that had remained veiled by political hoopla.
I managed to stay with the kar sevaks from Delhi and Haryana in a tent at Guru Gobind Singh camp near the disputed site. I was briefed by pracharaks of the RSS and "indoctrinated" by the Bajrang Dal.
One early morning (a few days before the December 6 demolition), hundreds of people gathered near my tent. They were carrying boulders and shovels and shouting "Jai Shri Ram". Out of fear, I too joined the mob, which was led by then BJP MP B.L. Sharma ‘Prem’. Soon, the mob started breaking down three gravestones. I also carried the debris to a nearby pond, along with other kar sevaks. Within no time some makeshift shops were set up at the site to sell tea. All this happened in the presence of the saffron party leader. People called it "chhoti (small) kar seva". Some Bajrang Dal activists even wanted to build a small temple there, but they were prevented by others because, they said, it would hamper the work of Ram temple.
One person who was staying with me in the tent told me that all the arrangements had been made by the RSS. "We have planned the rann neeti (war strategy). And the UP police is supporting us. We are sure of our victory," he said and even took me to a huge bhojanalaya for food.
At the site of the then disputed temple, the UP police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary were placed outside the structure, while the Central Reserve Police Force was inside. On the very first evening, I spotted a PAC constable shouting "Jai Shri Ram" slogans along with kar sevaks barely a few metres away from the disputed structure.
As I moved through the holy town wearing a two-day stubble and soiled clothes, I interacted with many PAC men. Always, I was treated with respect, even deference. One night some kar sevaks and I spent hours chatting with a group of PAC personnel. "We are solidly behind you. Don’t worry," said a policeman. "If we are ordered on December 6 to attack you, we will lay down our arms and join you," reassured another. "Come what may, we will force the paramilitary to surrender," said a third.
The bonhomie between the kar sevaks and the UP policemen was striking. They bought us tea and, later, one of them invited us over for breakfast to their camp, including many kar sevaks who were carrying arms.
A saint and a boy from Rajasthan bowed before me when they heard this. They said Hindus needed staunch supporters like me. The boy from Jaipur told me that he had been assigned the job of security, which probably meant being with the PAC or the Uttar Pradesh police.
A boy from Faridabad suggested that I join the RSS. He said a 20-day camp is held every year in three places to impart training to Sangh activists. "This year we were taught how to handle explosives. Even some Kashmiris were there," he added.
It was with great difficulty that I managed to leave Ayodhya. On my way to Faizabad, I was grilled again by kar sevaks. This time they wanted to know why I was leaving the holy town. An official posted at Faizabad railway station allowed me to leave only after I convinced him that I would be back with my Kashmiri Hindu friends who too were keen to perform kar seva on D-Day.
As I returned to Delhi on December 3, 1992, to file my reports, I recalled my closest encounter with death during this masquerade — One day a journalist friend had yelled out my name when I was with a group of kar sevaks in Ayodhya. I didn’t know how to react and was on the verge of a breakdown because I knew the extent to which the hardliners would go to avenge breach of trust. Somehow I managed the disaster by embracing my friend and confiding in him.