Thursday, 8 December 2011

Babri Masjid Demolition 19 years ago


Dented Indian democracy, shattered secularism, politicized judiciary, Hindu extremism triumphed and Muslims rendered helpless

Amidst heightened security   19 anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid, passed on Tuesday December 6. However many Indian Muslims stated that” Babri Mosque destruction has left deep wounds in their psyche and only its reconstruction  on its site will heal that wound .Muslims have moved on but have forgotten nothing and the scars remain ever fresh”. 

Babri Masjid, located in the ancient town of Ayodhya in the North Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, was built in 1528 by the Mughal King Barber. 

There was no dispute of any kind and the Hindus and Muslim there lived in peace and harmony. However controversy was sparked off, almost three and half centuries later, when some Hindu extremists claimed that this mosque was built on the spot where the Hindu deity Ram was born. The controversy resulted in the first religious violence in 1853. In view of the sensitive nature of the issue the British colonial rulers erected a fence in 1859 to separate places of worship for Muslims and Hindus. Under this arrangement Muslims were allowed to use the inner court for their prayers while the outer court was allocated to Hindus.

This situation continued for almost a century until 1949, when some Hindus secretly placed idols of Lord Rama inside the mosque triggering off strong protest from the Muslims. Both Muslims and Hindus filed civil suits, but in a move to appease the Hindus and deprive the Muslims of their rights, the government declared the mosque premises a disputed area and sealed the gates. Muslims have also been prevented from praying in the mosque.

Thus, the then Congress government was responsible for sowing the seeds for future conflicts. The Hindu extremist party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) founded in 1964 by a group of senior leaders of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), formed a committee in 1984, and started spearheading a nationwide campaign to build a Ram Temple in the premises of Babri Masjid.

In the midst in 1986 a District Judge ordered the opening of the gates of the mosque to allow Hindus to worship knowing very well the explosive nature of the issue which could tear apart the country. The incentives given to the district judge by the assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to influence this verdict, to appease RSS vote banks, have been common knowledge.

In protest, the Muslims set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee to fight for their rights.

Without waiting for the court verdict, Hindu extremists began to politicise the issue raising communal tension between the two communities. This insidious campaign was later led by long time RSS leader Lal Krishna Advani, who became leader of the Bahratiya Janata Party (BJP) – earlier known as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, established in 1951 as a political wing of the RSS to counter rising public revulsion after the venerated father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated by a RSS member. 

It was L. K. Advani who first brought the Babri Masjid issue to the forefront of the BJP’s strategy to achieve power. His extremely provocative and dangerous ‘rath yatra’ (chariot journey) whipped up religious sentiment, polarised society, generated passions and stirred Hindus and Muslims with pernicious results.

Meanwhile, the VHP, with its anti-Muslim slogans stepped up its own campaign in 1989 to lay the foundations for the Ram Temple on land adjacent to the mosque. This time, its cadres partially damaged the mosque. In 1991, the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, facilitating Hindu nationalists’ move to destroy the mosque.

On 6 December 1992, RSS cadres gathered in the Babri mosque premises   for conducting a religious ceremony marking the laying of the first bricks for constructing a Ram temple.The congress government of Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao in the centre didn’t take any precautionary measure to protect the Babri Masjid or to prevent the outbreak of communal violence. The Hindu mob brought down the mosque to create new realities. 

Senior journalist Renu Mittal disclosed before a city court on 17 November 2011 that” Advani played a crucial role in the demolition of the mosque. Advani used loud speakers to direct the closure of all routes to Ayodhya, not allowing anyone to enter or exit”. Demolition began around 11.30 am and went on uninterrupted till 4.30 PM. After the demolition party leaders and the people there were hugging and congratulating each other while karsevaks took bricks as souvenirs from the demolished mosque”.

The demolition of the Masjid triggered off nationwide riots killing more than 3,000, Muslims although the exact number killed will never be known. After all, those spelling out the official figures were the very same people behind the carnage. Muslim-owned houses and business establishments too were destroyed as part of the overall RSS strategy to destroy the economic base of Muslims in India. The bloodshed was the most serious threat to India’s secular identity since independence in 1947.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charge-sheet set before the Rae Bareli court stated that L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar and VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Ritambara incited kar sevaks with inflammatory speeches to encourage the mob to demolish the Babri Masjid.

However the Rae Bareli court ruled that Advani would not be tried. The judgment went against the weight of the entire evidence and violated the law as declared by the Supreme Court. It also raised questions as to how the Magistrate separated the case against Advani from the rest, even though the charges and the evidence against them were almost similar.

Some legal experts described the court proceedings as a complete eye wash while one lawyer said ‘Advani will have to examine his conscience and ask whether it is fair that those who followed him should be charged while he should get off scot free’. The lawyers were stunned at the double standards of the court order as the general perception was that Advani, as deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister misused the government machinery to gain relief. 

Meanwhile Yousuf  Muchala, counsel for victims of the communal riots in the aftermath of the demolition of Ayodhya mosque  pointed out that” deposed before the Justice M. S. Liberhan Commission of Inquiry in New Delhi, Narasimha Rao affirmed that the demolished structure was a mosque when he said, “What else could it be? Was it a dwelling house? When the Government of Uttar Pradesh says that namaz (prayers) was going on there until 1949, irrespective of the date, what else could it be but a mosque?”.

Pouring fuel into fire, in the long awaited  verdict on the  Babri Masjid dispute   the  Allahabad Court  offered  on 30 September 2010  two third of the  2.77 acre  Babri Masjid to Hindus and one third to the Muslim. The verdict stated that the crucial area under the central dome of the mosque where Lord Ram’s idols placed in 1949 right   in extreme secrecy in violation of all established legal, moral and religious principles will remain where they are.

Thus the court provided legitimacy to the criminal act perpetrated by RSS combine in demolishing the masjid in 1992.This is Indian justice under which around 150 million Muslims were treated worse than the worst of dalits.

Many lawyers, columnists and others said that the verdict has nothing to do with legality, right and wrong or historic and other evidences. It is simply a judgment to appease Hindu extremists. Otherwise how on earth two third of an almost five century old mosque be given to Hindus purely on the basis of their claim of belief and faith. The silence of righteous Hindus also contributed to this injustice which shattered India’s hypocrisy of secularism.One media report rightly pointed out that “at one level, from the standpoint of political morality, the verdict could be viewed as rewarding those who placed the idol overnight under the central dome of the mosque and those who in 1992 razed it to the ground”. Within 24 hours L.K.Advani said” Now we can go ahead with the construction of Ram Temple in the Masjid premises.

Highlighting the unfair judgment columnist Ram Puniyani said” the claim of RSS combine ,BJP,VHP,Sang Parivar and the like to build a Ram temple inside Babri masjid is not backed up by historical and archeological data. The argument put forward was that ‘Faith’ will decide the birth place of Lord Ram and Sangh Parivar will be guided by the mahants and sadhus about the future course of action.  Since then VHP had been spearheading the campaign to build Ram Temple asserting that it is the ‘faith’ and not the law of the land which will guide their actions.

Thus Babri Masjid is today turned to Hindu temple  to Hindu extremism, corrupt politics and judiciary in the  much claimed largest democracy in the world. (Latheef Farook)

Latheef Farook is a Senior Sri Lankan journalist who, after working for  Ceylon Daily News and Ceylon Observer for almost a decade, led a team to Dubai in February 1979 where he re launched Gulf News. After almost a quarter century in the Gulf he returned home and now based in Colombo.


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