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 Did the censor board ban Newstrack's story on the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the consequent riots because it considered the footage "inflammatory" or because the visuals show the truth behind the December 6 attack on the Babri Moque ? These questions may never be answered.

What does the Newstrack story show? It shows the tension building up in Ayodhya from December 3, with kar sevaks openly airing their determination to demolish the 464-year-old mosque. It shows BJP leaders making forceful speeches and Mr. Ramesh Pratap, an RSS leader, carrying out a dress rehearsal of the demoliton of the mosque on December 4. It shows kar sevaks dancing and singing. "We will not shift sand; we will demolish the structure". Above all, it shows the first few moments of the attack.

It is December 6 and the tension is palpable. However, the district magistrate and the superintendent of police confidently tells the Newstrack team that "it will be all right". The senior officers of the district can be seen looking on from the top of a building, sipping tea and making no attempt to co-ordinate things on the ground.

A few minutes before the proposed kar seva, kar sevaks wearing yellow bands are pushing other "unwanted" kar sevaks away from the area from where the attack was launched. These yellow-banded kar sevaks are helped by a senior BJP leader. Another surprising thing happens. The police surrounding the Babri mosque walk away. There has been no attack on the building, as yet, but the majority of the policemen have turned and started walking away in a single file.

The next few minutes are vividly captured in the film. A group of kar sevaks attack the mosque from the backside. This is a very small band and could have been stopped easily by the policemen on duty. But there is not even a lathi-charge. Except for about a dozen policemen, all the others have left their posts. The persisting dozen run away too as soon as a couple of stones are thrown at them.

About 40 kar sevaks break into the inner circle, carrying ropes and pickaxes. A few seconds later the rest of the kar sevaks follow them. The RSS volunteers, supposed to maintain order, are no-where to be seen. There are too many men carrying rods and pickaxes and ropes. Inspite of the melee, the actions of the kar sevaks seem to be pursposeful. Asks the Newstrack commentator, "If it (the attack) was not a pre-planned operation, how did they come so well equipped?"

The film also shows a Voice of America correspondent being pushed out. He is bleeding profusely. Senior Officers look upon the chaos from a vantage point as if watching a tennis match. One police officer tells, the policemen to "do something". "At least fire in the air," he said. No one obeys him and he goes away after a couple of exhortations. The main dome of the Babri masjid disappears in dust or smoke. The Newstrack commentator points out that there were rumours of dynamite being used to blow up the domes.

Evidently, the censor board found all this a bit too much. It banned the entire story under section 2, XIII and XVII of film certification guidelines which say "Visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented" and "public order is not endangered". This is reportedly the first time that the censor board has banned an entire story of the video magazine.

Says Ms. Madhu Trehan, anchor-person of Newstrack, "the censor board treats the Indian people with a colonial attitude. While the international press, including Pakistan television enjoys complete freedom to broadcast to Indian viewers whatever they please, the private Indian electronic media is bound by antiquated laws, written for feature films."

(TOI. 20/12/92)