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Kalyan Singh was livid and crestfallen when Babri Masjid was brought down

Kalyan Singh was livid and crestfallen when Babri Masjid was razed. He reflected his angst against the party.

Updated: Dec 06, 2018, 08.28 PM IST
By Anil Swarup

Babri Masjid was a bone of contention between two communities for decades.

It all began during the 19th century, though the structure was apparently built during 1520-29 CE by Mir Baqi on orders of the Mughal emperor, Babar. The mosque was located on a hill known as ‘Ramkot’. The Hindus believed that Baqi had destroyed a pre-existing temple of Ram at the site. They also believed Ram was born here.

This belief emanates from the documents of Sawai Jai Singh, a Rajput noble in the Mughal court.

In the Kapad-Dwar collection in the City Palace Museum of Jaipur there is a sketch map of the Babri Masjid site. The map portrays an open courtyard and a built structure resembling Babri Masjid with three domes.

The courtyard is mentioned as ‘janmsthan’ and shows a ‘Ram chabutra’.

In 1853, a group of Hindu ascetics occupied the site and claimed ownership over the structure. In 1855, after a Hindu-Muslim clash, a boundary wall was constructed to avoid further dispute. Accordingly, Muslims offered prayers in the inner courtyard and Hindus on the raised platform. The dispute acquired a legal dimension when, in 1877, Syed Mohammad Asghar, the guardian of the structure, filed a petition with the commissioner of Faizabad, requesting for restraint on Hindus who had raised a ‘chabutra’ on the spot regarded as the birthplace of Ram.

In December 1949, Akhil Bha rat iya Ramayana Mahasabha organised a nine-day recital of Ramacharitmanas just outside the mosque. On the morning of December 23, the event organisers announced that idols of Ram and Sita had appeared miraculously and exhorted Hindus for ‘darshan’. Given the sensitivity, the government declared the mosque a disputed area and locked the gates. The unlocking of the gates took place in 1986, when all Hindus were given access to the site.


A massive campaign was subsequently launched to build a Ram temple on the site. It was in these circumstances that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Kalyan Singh came to power in Uttar Pradesh and I was appointed as director, information and public relations.

Kalyan Singh had taken his job in right earnest. Immediately on assuming office, he made his intentions clear — to provide honest and purposeful governance. He was keen on conveying a message that he meant business and sought a list of officers with honest credentials for manning critical posts like district magistrates and secretaries of departments.

Certain social evils, like mass copying in school examinations, were sought to be reined in. The cabinet meetings would go on for hours for discussing policies on various issues before taking a final call. Building of Ram temple, the issue on which the BJP rode to power, was always a hot topic of discussion, but Kalyan Singh’s focus lay in converting Uttar Pradesh into an ‘Uttam’ (good) Pradesh. With a set of bright officers, like Sanjay Aggarwal and Anant Kumar Singh (both of whom rose to become secretaries to the Government of India), in his secretariat, he was leaving no stone unturned to achieve the objective.

Improvements were visible in the form of delivery of services at the field level and in posting of competent officers.

These officers were provided security of tenure (the state was otherwise notorious for a flourishing ‘transfer industry’) and necessary backing to carry out the task of implementing policies. The same bureaucracy was now performing.

The steps that were taken to prevent ‘mass copying’ in examinations were unprecedented. The law and order in the state improved dramatically.

However, what happened on December 6, 1992, changed all this.

December 6 was a Sunday. It should have been a holiday. However, with thousands of ‘kar sevaks’ (volunteers for construction of a temple at Ayodhya) from all over the country congregating at Ayodhya (the birthplace of Lord Ram), there was indeed tension even on this cold Sunday morning. A similar event had taken place in July and had passed over peacefully. This was the hope that Kalyan Singh, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, harboured.

Ironically, he himself had provided a ray of hope to the state that was otherwise hurtling down a precipice.

In my capacity as director, information and public relations, it was my duty to report to the chief minister every morning to brief him about the media coverage. On this day, there was apparent lull but a pregnant one, with a storm brewing in the east. Hence, I arrived at his residence at 4A Kalidas Marg a trifle earlier than usual. Kalyan Singh was normally a paragon of composure and confidence. However, on this day he looked a bit tense, sitting all alone in a room where he received guests. He was speaking to someone on the telephone as I walked into the room. Even though previous such congregations at Ayodhya had concluded peacefully, without any mishap, he had been opposed to such congregations. He was focused on setting things in order and was being hailed for what he was attempting.

Within a year of his government, he had left a mark. Even his critics admired his honest and no-nonsense approach to resolving issues. He did want a grand temple at Ayodhya and was diligently working towards a peaceful and amicable consensus.


There were indeed a few options emerging. One such option was construction of a new masjid close to the site. He even gave an example of shifting of mosques when Aswan dam was being constructed in Egypt.

This idea was gradually gaining currency.

He was engaging intensively with all the stakeholders. However, he was totally against aggressive posturing that was the hallmark of right-wing religious organisations.

Those were the days when mobile phones did not exist, at least in India.

Apart from Doordarshan there was no other live channel. Teleprinters and landline telephones were the primary mode of communication. In the absence of a ‘live’ telecast it was difficult to gauge the ground reality.

Hence, a greater suspense. Kalyan Singh was intermittently getting updates from Ayodhya. He even had a word with Lal Krishna Advani who was in Ayodhya. Early in the morning, everything seemed to be under control. Or so it appeared. Then the news of the unexpected filtered in.

Some of the ‘kar sevaks’ had broken the cordon and climbed the domes of the old structure. The structure was razed. Kalyan Singh was crestfallen and livid. Along with the Babri structure, his dreams of rebuilding Uttar Pradesh came crashing down.

His subsequent conversation with Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, chief minister of Rajasthan at the time, on phone reflected his angst against the party leadership. He reiterated that he was against such a congregation, but he was overruled and no one listened to him. His reservations about such a congregation were not in the context of apprehending a mishap (he was somehow convinced that the structure would never come down in the manner it finally did), but in the context of unnecessary distractions that such events created. He was opposed to the congregation in July as well but fortunately no untoward incident happened. It was a long conversation in which Kalyan Singh did most of the talking. As a final comment he stated that he would own up the responsibility of what had happened and resign forthwith.

He then asked me to get a paper and wrote a brief resignation letter to the governor (I later learnt that a formal type-written resignation letter was indeed sent). In this letter, he owned up the responsibility for what had happened, without providing any explanation. There were then still a few politicians who had the courage to own responsibility. He clearly mentioned that no one else should be held responsible. No sooner had he completed penning down his resignation than he regained his composure. Just then the principal secretary, home, entered the room. As I accosted him to the chief minister, he whispered into my ears “marva diya” (finished us). How true it was in the context of the effort that was being made to resurrect the state. It had all come crashing down. Uttar Pradesh never recovered after this crash.

(The writer served 38 years in GoI and is bringing out a detailed account of these events in his memoirs)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of

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