NEW DELHI: Former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had no clue about Operation Brasstacks, which was staged by his army chief and a cabinet minister without apparently informing the premier, a family friend and former civil servant Wajahat Habibullah has claimed in his new book, My Years With Rajiv.
Habibullah’s poser to the February 1986 opening of the gates of the Babri Masjid: “Was Rajiv Gandhi involved in the decisions leading up to this unlocking”? This is the answer Rajiv Gandhi gave Habibullah: “I had not been informed of this action, and have asked Vir Bahadur Singh (then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh) to explain. I suspect it was Arun (Nehru) and Fotedar (Makhan Lal) who were responsible, but I am having this verified. If it is true, I will have to consider action.”
Excerpts of the book by Wajahat Habibullah, quoted by TV journalist Karan Thapar in a column in The Asian Age on Friday, claimed that Gandhi was also not informed also about the opening of the locks of the Babri masjid for Hindus to begin worshipping at the disputed site before its eventual destruction in 1992.
It has been widely claimed that Gandhi used the Ayodhya concession to Hindus to balance his communal award to appease Muslim orthodoxy over a Muslim divorcee’s right to alimony.
The Operation Brasstacks of 1986-87 was viewed as unwarrantedly provocative and many feared it could spark a conflict with Pakistan.
Apparently again, it emerges Rajiv Gandhi had no idea of its planning or that it was actually happening. Mr Habibullah reveals he only found out as a result of a casual comment to Lt. Gen. P. N. Hoon, the then Western Army Commander, at an Army Day reception.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2020