President finds fault with Rajiv Gandhi
The opening of Ram Janmabhoomi temple site in Ayodhya was an "error of judgement" by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, President Pranab Mukherjee has said in his memoir released on Thursday.
President Mukherjee in his book "The Turbulent Years: 1980-96" also called the demolition of Babri Masjid an act of "absolute perfidy" that destroyed India's image.
"The opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple site on 1 February 1986 was perhaps another error of judgement. People felt these actions could have been avoided," the President has written.
"The demolition of Babri Masjid was an act of absolute perfidy...It was the senseless, wanton destruction of a religious structure, purely to serve political ends. It deeply wounded the sentiments of the Muslim community in India and abroad. It destroyed India's image as a tolerant, pluralistic nation," he said
He also said the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's campaign by mobilising activists to collect bricks from all over the country and take them in a procession to Ayodhya caused communal tension.
The period of 1989-91, according to Mukherjee, was a phase dominated by violence and bitter divisions within Indian society.
He said the implementation of the Mandal Commission's recommendations "contributed to reducing social injustice in society though it also divided and polarised different sections of our population".
"Insurgency and cross border terrorism broke out in Jammu and Kashmir; the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir-Babri Masjid issue rocked the nation. Finally, a suicide bomber brought Rajiv's life to an abrupt and tragic end on 21 May 1991," he said.
Recalling the Shah Bano case, the President says Rajiv Gandhi's action eroded his image of a modern man.
"Rajiv's actions on the Shah Bano judgement and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill drew criticism and eroded his modern image," the President said.
Shah Bano, a Muslim mother of five children, was divorced by her husband in 1978. She filed a criminal suit in which the Supreme Court ruled in her favour and she won the right to alimony from her husband.
However, the then Congress government, enacted the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The most controversial provision of the Act was that it gave a Muslim woman the right to maintenance for the period of iddat (about three months) after the divorce, and shifted the onus of maintaining her to her relatives or the Wakf Board.
The Act was seen as discriminatory as it denied divorced Muslim women the right to basic maintenance which women of other faiths had recourse to under secular law.
Mukherjee said Rajiv Gandhi has been criticised for his excessive reliance on some close friends and advisers who installed the so-called 'babalog' government. "Some of them turned out to be fortune seekers."