Is an engineering scientist who lives in Toronto
THE LIBERHAN inquiry report brought back memories of that black Sunday and thereafter. As the Head of the National Informatics Center (NIC) Training Unit at Mussoorie’s IAS Academy, I was accompanying a group of young Central Services probationers as one of their ‘guardian’ faculty members. We were river-rafting in Rishikesh that day — we started from Byasi at around 10 am and came down to Rishikesh by the afternoon. The young probationers had their fun by jumping into the Ganges and swimming. It was fun watching them and dodging their attempts to pull me into the cold water. As we approached Rishikesh in our rafts, one of the probationers mentioned the date, December 6, 1992. I never imagined it would become a landmark in Indian history.
The next week was the last for the current foundation course term at the academy before examinations. During a Monday morning tea break, one of the probationers walked into my office. He told me about the demolition of the Babri Masjid and of probationers celebrating the event the previous night in hostels. Some were even distributing sweets.
Once he left, I was alone with my thoughts. I could not understand how these young officers, still under training, could celebrate fanaticism and communal violence in Academy hostels. As their teacher, the question that kept running through my mind was whether such government officers would be able to serve as guardians of the Indian Constitution and the life and limb of the common man once they had State power in their hands? What, as a teacher and their trainer, was my responsibility? There were hardly four days left before their Foundation course ended — what could be done?
The session’s last Faculty Forum meeting was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and to be chaired by the institute’s director. All senior faculty members, professors and heads of department, including me, were to be in attendance. I started calling up Forum members, indicating that I would be raising the issue of celebrations in the hostels. I wanted their support. Everyone I spoke to assured me they would support my voice.
The meeting started late in the afternoon the next day. It was a full house. Once all the listed agenda items had been discussed, the Director asked if anyone wanted to raise any other issues. There was an eerie silence. I could have heard a pin drop. Realising the meeting might close without a word about the hostel celebrations, I asked whether faculty members were aware of the incident. As I was speaking, each attendee looked as if they wanted to become invisible for the discussion. Suddenly, the room was charged! This was more shocking to me than when I first heard of the demolition. Those who had demolished the Babri had not sworn to save the law and Constitution of India, unlike those in this committee room.
As their teacher, I kept wondering how such officers would be able to serve as guardians of the Indian Constitution
The Director listened to me patiently. Finally, he said, “Dr Ahmad, do you want this Faculty Forum to pass a resolution condemning the Prime Minister?” There was deathly silence in the room. All the members turned to see what I was going to say. I replied, “Sir, if passing a resolution sends the message that we are saviours and upholders of the law and Constitution of India, then please propose it. I will be the first person to second such a resolution. Otherwise, take action that demonstrates that we are here to teach probationers how and why the Constitution has to be preserved.” The Director was not prepared for such an answer — nor any other members of the Forum, for that matter. No resolution was moved by him. He later became Principal Secretary to Narasimha Rao, Prime Minister of India. But as a result of my raising the issue, the Director was forced to organise a panel discussion on Babri Masjid for the entire batch, for which I was the first speaker.
Sitting here in Canada, I sometimes wonder if I upheld the ethos of ‘Karmanya Vaha Vikarastha Ma Phaleshu Kadachana’ that day as a teacher.