How a Key Witness in the Babri Demolition Documented Its Rehearsal

The photographer who captured the rehearsal of the Babri demolition, Praveen Jain, tells us how he did it.

3 min read

(A special CBI court on Wednesday, 30 September, acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, 28 years after the incident took place. Among the accused acquitted, over lack of evidence, were LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. This story was first published on 5 December 2017 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives in light of this development.)

6 December 1992 – a day that changed Indian politics forever. The Babri demolition incident in Ayodhya is well-known, but what were the events that unfolded prior to this day?

A Documented Rehearsal

On 5 December 1992, a rehearsal was carried out. Dozens of kar sevaks participated in this effort, in practice for the main event the next day. This activity was photographed by Praveen Jain, Associate Editor of The Indian Express who had at the time worked with The Pioneer and who says he had to disguise himself as a member of the VHP to gain access to the grounds on which the practice was being held.

The Key Witness

In an exclusive interview, Praveen Jain, the key witness of the Babri demolition case spoke to Quint Hindi.

According to the judge, I am the key witness as I had seen the rehearsal. My photographs prove that the demolition was a pre-planned conspiracy.
Praveen Jain

The events of 5 December are still fresh in his mind. He said:

I saw the rehearsal was underway on the ground. People were working with big hammers and shovels. The kar sevaks were practicing on a large mound. They used ropes to secure an iron grille around the mound and then used it to climb up. I composed my shot in a way to show how they managed to tighten their grip and climb up. This is the technique they used to break the dome.
Praveen Jain

The chaotic scene of that day still makes Praveen’s hair stand on end.

We got there on 6 December and were given some badges. There were two decks – one for the VIPs which included Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti. The press gathered on the second deck, from where the Babri Masjid was clearly visible as it must’ve been a couple of stories high. Suddenly, an indistinct group of people started hitting us, throwing our cameras to the ground. They wanted us to stop recording. We ran to the spot where Advani and all were. I myself told Advani, ‘Sir, they are getting violent, please save us.’ But no one was bothered. They were chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and breaking the dome of the Babri Masjid. They were not bothered about the Supreme Court orders.
Praveen Jain

Praveen says:

25 years have passed. But there has been no conclusion. Many witnesses have passed away. When the verdict will be announced, we will move on to the Supreme Court. This is a political issue, it will go on forever. This is about a vote bank. I don’t know what the court will decide.
Praveen Jain

Advani, Joshi and several BJP leaders accused

The CBI court in Lucknow has been hearing one of the cases related to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. The debate is over whether there was a pre-planned conspiracy behind the demolition of the disputed structure. In May 2017, the court framed charges against BJP leaders including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati. They were, however, granted bail.

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camerapersons: Neeraj Gupta and Shadab Moizee

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