New Delhi: Ruchira Gupta, an activist and documentary film-maker, who was at the time of Babri Masjid demolition, was present at the site. She gives a firsthand detail of what actually happened there and who all were involved in provoking people to demolish the structure.
Ruchira Gupta says that LK Advani was leading the movement and other leaders like Murali Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Pramod Mahajan and Sadhvi Rithambara were also present who were giving hate speeches there.
Also, the Sangh Parivar organisations like RSS, VHP, ABVP activists, Bhajrang Dal and BJP workers were present who were fully prepared and were ready to demolish the iconic structure.
Sadhvi Ritambara went on to say that “Mardangi waapis lo, chudiyan utaro aur Masjid todo.”
Uma Bharti was saying that “Ek Dhakka aur do, Masjid todo.”
Ruchira Gupta who witnessed the demolition of the Babri Mosque told the Liberhan Commission that it was ‘planned’ and the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders were ‘jubilant’ over the demolition, with L K Advani even describing it as ‘historic’.
She said that, when Advani saw some kar sevaks climbing up the domes of the mosque, he had said, ” Unko upar nahin chadhna chahiye. Dhancha to girne hi wala hai. Unko chot lag sakti hai. Mumbai se kuch log aaye hain jinka samay nischit hain Masjid ko giraane ka. (They should not climb up. The structure is soon to fall down. They might get hurt. Few men from Mumbai had arrived and there is particular time for demolishing the structure).”
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As soon as the first dome fell, Bharti hugged veteran BJP leader and ”master of the ceremony” Vijaya Raje Scindia, who was ”weeping with joy”.
Sadhvi Ritambhara told Advani, ” Sarkar to girne hi wali hai to sasurimasjid ko kyon bachayen (When the government has to go, why save the mosque).” Scindia, who was standing nearby, agreed with it and said, ‘‘you are right”, Gupta told the commission.
After the first dome fell, Ruchira Gupta says that “I decided to walk inside the middle door. I was wearing jeans and a loose shirt, and I put a wet handkerchief on my head and walked inside. The dome was very crowded. They were shouting, wearing orange bands on their heads and waists, and some even had pickaxes. They were in a frenzy.”
When I went in, I tried to squeeze between the people to reach the spot. The BJP activists had told me there was a ‘garbha gruha’ and a statue of infant Ram at the disputed site. Obviously, I did not look like the others around me. I was the only female in jeans and shirt, so anyway they were very uncomfortable when I tried to push in. One of the men said, ‘She must be Muslim.’ Suddenly everyone started saying ‘Muslim! Muslim!’ and hands began to reach out to strangle me.
“And while I was split seconds away from death, I could not even get words out of my mouth to say who I was. Strangers’ hands were reaching out and poking my breasts, pinching my waist, trying to touch every private part of mine while I was dying. And I was thinking, ‘If I have to die, does it have to be this way?’” she recalls.
“One person said, ‘Let’s not kill her inside, let’s take her to the trench outside.’ Perhaps they wanted to do more sexually, because they pulled me out of the mosque.”
While these men were trying to attack me, my shirt had come out by then. Suddenly, a man from Bihar, who I had interviewed the day before, came to rescue me. He said, ‘No, she’s a journalist, she’s from Bihar. I know her, she’s from my neighbouring village, she’s a Hindu.’ They hit the man on the head – he was bleeding, his leg was broken – but he rescued me.
Gupta says she went straight to Lal Krishna Advani, who, along with other BJP leaders, was present on the terrace of a house that offered a clear view of what was going on outside.
I went to him and said, ‘Advaniji, can you ask your people to announce on the mic not to attack journalists, not to attack women.’ I told him I was sexually assaulted. He said, ‘Forget whatever has happened to you. This is such a historic day, celebrate. Here, eat something sweet.’
Gupta finally got help from a woman constable who escorted her to a car. “I drove straight to Delhi, but I was determined to testify in the Bahari Tribunal, the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry, the Press Council,” she recalls.
“I was always attacked by a battery of lawyers from the Bajrang Dal, from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and, of course, the BJP. And the kind of questions they would ask me was – ‘where are your scratch marks’, ‘you must’ve done it for publicity’, ‘do you act in TV serials’, ‘do you smoke?’, ‘do you believe in God?’, ‘are there any photos of God in your house?’, ‘you say your shirt had come off, in that condition, you, a girl from a good family, went to a big leader like LK Advani in that disheveled state?.’”
“So, I told them, the shame was not mine. The shame was theirs, because they were the perpetrators and he was the leader of the perpetrators,” she says.
But, the intimidation did not end even after her testimony was recorded.
When they realised they could not intimidate me, they started spreading rumours about me among my friends and people who did not know me well in Delhi. People would ask me – ‘Do you have a lot of boyfriends?’, ‘do you live with men openly’, ‘do you love publicity?’, ‘your stories are not well researched’, ‘there are mistakes in your stories’.
“They tried to damage my credibility as a human being. When they could not do that, they actually began to stalk me, instil fear in me; they vandalised my car, they used to write, ‘F*** you’ on my article and leave it around, and I would find it. They would follow me from one office to the other in Connaught Place in Delhi; they would stand outside my home, they would call me and breathe heavily into the phone. But, I still didn’t get intimidated because once I took a stand and spoke up, actually, I got rid of the fear,” says Gupta.