Babri Masjid: Derailment of civic politics in India

Babri masjid in the early 1990s

By Dr. Md Afroz & Md Tabrez Alam

6 December 1992 was the day when Babri Masjid was demolished and it was the day when Muslims realised the horrific trailer of Hindu-Rashtra. This was the day of minority’s illusion of equality and egalitarian fade away and the credibility of the state badly damaged in failing to provide safety & security of minorities. It is believed Lord Ram was born there and emperor Babur built a mosque over it. Though, no substantive historical evidence supports this claim. Yet it is considered as a question of majority faith and matter could not be resolved between parties each one attesting non-negotiable positions. The delay in court judgment frustrated both parties that created euphoric sentiment among masses and with the involvement of politics it added fire. If the Supreme Court of India could have timely intervened and had delivered judgment it would not have damaged civic nationalism and it would also not pave way for ethnic politics.

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Why Muslims don’t forget the demolition?

Post Babri riot’s generation is still alive with haunting memories of suffering. It is very difficult for them to forget who lost their loved one. It is advised to forget and move forward, but is it so easy? The answer is no, few occurrences remain stitched to the collective psyche of a community that has faced it. Can Sikhs ever forget the 1984 massacre? Can Jews forget the Holocaust? Can Rohingyas ever forget their ethnic cleansing respectively? The answer would be never. Similarly, the demolition of Babri Masjid has the same sentimental effect on the community’s psyche that would be never forgotten or made to be forgotten. The demolition of Babri masjid created a wedge that can never be bridged. Though, there is a ray of hope that communities may try to reconcile the differences.

Redefining Indian Politics 

India is considered one of the largest democracy in the world and it proudly celebrated the 73rd year of its independence this year. Democracy sustains on the ideals of principle such as liberty, equality, justice, and secularism which is also endorsed in the Indian Constitution that cemented the nation together. Yet, there are many flaws and stains in our democracy. The post Partition ghost almost closed in history books and the coming generation moved forward reconciling with then situations. But there was a seed of conflict covered under the soil by colonial British for its geo-political interest that has never been uprooted and it was the Hindu-Muslim communal divide and its periodic outpour in the form of riots and it has become a distinctive feature of Indian social life. There have been a series of riots – Kolkata, Rourkela, Jamshedpur (1961-1964), Ahmedabad (1969), Bhiwandi (1970), Jamshedpur (1979), Moradabad (1980), Bihar Sharif (1981), Nellie (1983), Bombay–Bhiwandi (1984) and later period state alleged massacres anti-Sikh (1984), Post Babri-Demolition (1992), Gujrat (2002), Kandhamal (2008), Assam (2012), Mujjaffarnagar (2013) are horrendous acts inflicted upon minorities to subjugate them (Outlook). Although none of them brings impactful consequences on the socio-political system of this country except 1984 anti-Sikh riot and Post Babri-Demolition riots, it permanently created distrust between state and society and minorities especially Muslims feel heavily marginalised. Sikhs, who are geographically concentrated in Punjab, found refuge there and over the period evolved their socio-political system distinctively. Whereas Muslims are scattered across many states found nowhere to go except community pockets in search of safety & security. The high concentration of minorities in a certain location is a curse for them whereas it becomes opportune for political parties. The so-called secular parties have always encashed support by giving lofty promises & sloganeering. This persistent marginalisation has developed anxiety and frustration among Muslims. Whereas Hindus are being mesmerised that minority appeasement is the reason for the bad conditions of Hindus. The irony is that both the majority Hindus and minority Muslims are fed-up and disillusioned with Indian secularism. In the contemporary situation, there is a strong ethnocentric political current engulfing the entire nation with the epicentre being northern India. The rise of ethnic politics is very dangerous, it is narrowing down the chances of strengthening the roots of democracy. Democracy promises equality and facilitates everyone’s participation in the development processes, whereas an ethnicised political system derails civic development and also weakens Indian nationalism.

 In a nutshell, the post-Babri riots dramatically derailed the civic politics into ethnic politics of pan-India. Its magnitude and consequences can be measured by mapping the political system of contemporary India. It has brought a phenomenal change in the behaviour of the state and society. The communalisation of state agencies and propagandist media has damaged the Indian democracy. The remedy lies in building trust among communities by civil engagements and fostering interfaith amalgamation. The state must legislate inclusive housing policies, to build a cohesive society. It will serve two purposes, first to re-integrate segregated ghettos into the rest of society, and secondly, it will counter prejudices and hate-mongering and pave the way to strong civic nationalism.

Dr Md Afroz teaches Political science & Public Administration @MANUU and MD Tabrez Alam is a doctoral scholar at Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi.