Twenty years of Babri Masjid demolition

By Asghar Ali Engineer,

Demolition of Babri Masjid was preceded and followed by horrible communal violence. In which thousands of people were killed. In Mumbai alone more than 1000 people were killed and many more in riots that occurred in other places. The kar seva, It is important to note, was supposed to be absolutely peaceful that no less a person than Atal Bihar Vajpayee had publicly promised that kar seva in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 would be just recitation of bhajans (i.e. devotional songs) and so they be allowed. Kalyan Singh, the BJP Chief Minister of U.P also gave similar assurance. Mr.Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister then and he took Vajpayee’s promise seriously and allowed kar seva.

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But Kalyan Singh, Chief Minister of U.P allowed hundreds of thousands of BJP members and supporters to enter Ayodhya. No attempt was made by Kalyan Singh on one hand, and BJP leaders at the national level, on the other hand, to control the crowd. And when the Supreme Court held him guilty of not preventing crowds from entering Ayodhya and sentenced him to a day’s sentence, he said I am proud of going to jail for this cause. In fact the crowd and leaders like L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti and several other senior leaders went to Ayodhya and made provocative speeches. In fact all of them had gone with all preparation to demolish the mosque. Such is the character of communal forces. They can tell lies to serve their so called cause and have absolutely no compunction in causing death and destruction.

Babri Masjid

The Hindi media was whole-heartedly with the Sangh Parivar and was in favour of demolition and was referring to the mosque as ‘controversial dhancha’ (i.e. structure) and not as mosque. For all practical purposes it was a ‘temple’, not a mosque. In North India (not so much in South) sentiments in favour of demolition were running very high and when mosque was demolished there was great celebration. According to one secular activist from Kanpur, fireworks were displayed in many parts of U.P. as if it was Deepavali and according to noted journalist Mr. Praful Bidwai who happened to be in Lalbahadur Shashtri Academy, Mussoorie, the IAS, IPS, IRS trainees also celebrated the demolition with great enthusiasm.

In fact The Sangh Parivar polarized Hindus and Muslims as it happened at the time of partition and the Parivar, through its powerful propaganda machine had convinced the average Hindus that very existence of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was shame for India and symbol of their ‘slavery’ of Hindus to the Mughal rule. For Sangh Parivar demolition of mosque was necessary for its coming to power. No other Party in the world, as far as I know, ever made demolition of any historical structure as part of political agenda as BJP did. It is unfortunate that some Muslim leaders also made emotional speeches and aggravated the whole issue. More emotional statements they gave, more it strengthen Sangh Parivars’ hands. No serious attempts were made by these Muslim leaders to defuse the issue through constructive dialogue for which some moderate Hindus were ready.

Only saner voice came from the left leaders and some secular noted historians from JNU like Prof. Romila Thapar, Professors Satish Chandra, Harbans Mulkhia, Bipin Chandra, Irfan Habib and others. They brought out a pamphlet in which the Sangh Parivar theory that there ever was Ram Mandir in place of Babri Masjid was effectively refuted through concrete historical evidence. One IAS officer Mr. Shersingh who had done his M.A. in history write a book to show Ayodhya never existed there and in those days when Ram was supposed to live there was dense jungle. He showed it existed where modern Afghanistan did. However, in that surcharged political atmosphere there was no one to listen to reason.

Most Muslims doubted the integrity of Prime Minister Narsimha Rao who was thought to be inclined towards Sangh Parivar ideology. Even late Arjun Singh expressed his displeasure against Narsimha Rao for not instructing security forces to stop demolition of the mosque and was stationed 11 kms away from Ayodhya. If Rao wanted these forces who had made contingency plan to stop demolition could have done so. Their commander of these security forces himself told me at Mount Abu in CRPF Training Academy and explained with the help of maps in one of the workshops of CRPF after demolition of the mosque. He regretted that we waited for instructions from PMO but nothing was received until the demolition was complete. Some people close to the Prime Minister Rao maintained that Rao wanted mosque to be demolished so that most important propaganda issue of Sangh Parivar will vanish in thin air. Even if it were so it was at a great cost of innocent human lives. In those days India almost came very close to fascism.

Apart from this, what was most shameful was that not a single person was punished for such hooliganism and for demolition of an old and historical monument. When the democratic and secular forces put BJP to shame for its vandalism, Shri Advani tried to wash his hands off by saying it was ‘saddest day of his life’. In fact it was Advani who was the chief campaigner of building temple in Ayodhya and took out a Rath Yatra through the country which, according to the Times of India, turned into ‘blood yatra’ leaving trail of blood on its path in the form of communal riots. The Rao Government, appointed Liberahan Commission which took more than 16 years to submit its report and gave Rao, as expected, a clean chit. Such Commissions are appointed to put off any effective action and take years and tons of money to produce nothing concrete. In fact they are appointed to kill time and to let the real culprits off the hook.

The CBI court also could not fix responsibility and Sarvashri L.K.Advani (who really provoked India wide emotions through his Rath yatra), M.M.Joshi and Katiyar, Kalyan Singh and others are roaming freely though there is lot of evidence available including eyewitnesses to prosecute them. The NDA led by BJP came to power in 1999 and CBI was under Mr. Advani’s charge as Home Minister and so how CBI dare take action against its own boss. After it was defeated in 2004 and UPA led by the Congress was elected there was some move initially as CBI moved Barelly Court but nothing concrete came out of it.

I think there is some secret understanding between ruling parties not to breath down each other’s neck so that they can freely play their political games without any fear. In fact no democratic country would allow such hooliganism as in Ayodhya in 1992. In the first place no such thing would have happened if Rao Government had taken effective steps by stopping hate speeches being delivered by Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti, Katiyar and others.

And having demolished the mosque the culprit at least should have been punished to redeem our democratic values. What is equally regrettable was Allahabad High Court’s judgment in September 2010 which divided the land on which Babri Masjid stood rather than deciding the legal title of the land for which case was filed. Now the appeal has been pending in the Supreme Court. Let us hope the highest court of the land will do justice. The Supreme Court judgment should be accepted by all the parties in all sobriety. That is the only sane approach left now.

It is also important to note that demolition of Babri Masjid proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it always happens, and Muslims realized they must concentrate on their real problems like education and economic development. Both the Sangh Parivar and their own leaders had entangled them into emotional problems detracting them from their real problems. This realization had done immense good and many educational institutions came into existence since then.

However, unfortunately education is not an independent factor. It is dependent on economic factor. The poverty among Muslims is so overwhelming (according to Sachar Committee report Muslims have slipped below Dalits in matters of employment and economic development) and hence without addressing this problem of poverty it would be difficult to address the problem of higher education especially in these days of privatization and liberalization. Only Government intervention could help and that is not easy as political leadership among Muslims is not competent at all and non-Muslim secular political leadership is not keen at all. Well let us see how things develop.

Dr. Engineer is the author of Communalism and communal violence in India: an analytical approach to Hindu-Muslim conflict. Published by Ajanta Publications (India), 1989.