Indian Muslims observed the 24th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 2016.
Announcing that the Muslims can never surrender their claim on Babri Masjid
they appealed to the Supreme Court for a speedy judgement to prevent racist elements from exploiting the issue for petty political gains in the name of religion.
THE ancient town of Ayodhya, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, has been known for its rich diversity of religious denominations, predominantly Hinduism and Islam.
For centuries Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony in this town where Mughal King Barber built Babri Masjid in 1528
Though there was no dispute for more than two centuries, controversy was sparked off when a small minority of Hindus started to claim 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 in 1859, the British colonial rulers erected a fence to allow Muslims to use the inner court for their prayers while the outer court was allocated to Hindus.
This situation continued 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.
However then Congress government declared the mosque premise a disputed area and sealed the gates. As a result Muslims were prevented from praying in the mosque.
In 1986 the District Judge ordered the opening of the gates to allow Hindus to worship. In protest, the Muslims set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee to fight for their rights.
Without waiting for the court verdict, a small group of Hindus began to politicise the issue raising communal tension between the two communities. The Hindu extremist party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) founded in 1964 by a group of senior leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), formed a committee in 1984, and began a nationwide campaign to build a Ram Temple in the Babri Masjid premises.
This campaign was later led by long time RSS leader Lal Krishna Advani, leader of the Bahratiya Janata Party (BJP) – earlier known as Jana Sangh, established in 1951 to counter rising public revulsion for RSS after father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated by a RSS member.
The RSS openly believes that national unity and progress could be achieved in India only when the country is ‘purged’ of non-Hindus, or, when members of other communities, especially Muslims, subordinate themselves ‘willingly’ to ‘Hindu superiority’.
It was L. K. Advani who politicised the Babri Masjid issue to achieve power. His ‘rath yatra’ (chariot journey) whipped up anti Muslim sentiment, polarised society, generated passions and led to violence killing thousands of Muslims besides destruction to their commercial, industrial and residential properties.
Meanwhile, the VHP further inflamed communal tension and aggravated the already explosive situation, when they stepped up their 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, raising the confidence of Hindu nationalists and facilitating their move to demolish the mosque. On 6 December 1992, RSS cadres gathered in the Babri mosque premises for constructing a Ram temple.
Mr Advani, who was at the site, together with other BJP, VHP and RSS leaders, instigated the mob, though he had given a commitment to Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao that Babri Masjid would not be touched. The RSS too had given a similar commitment and restrict to a religious ceremony symbolising the laying of the first bricks.
But they had brought in experts under the guise of activists who razed the mosque to the ground in a very professional manner.
The Prime Minister Narasimha Rao didn’t take any precautionary measure to protect the Babri Masjid or to prevent the outbreak of communal violence. Instead, the government’s leniency encouraged the mob to go ahead with the ceremony knowing very well the explosive nature of the situation and its devastating consequences.
The demolition of the Masjid triggered off nationwide religious riots between Hindus and the Muslim minority, killing, according to official sources, more than 3,000, who were mainly Muslims although the exact number killed countrywide will never be known.
Muslim-owned houses and business establishments too were destroyed and the bloodshed was the most serious threat to India’s secular identity since independence in 1947.
Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande said in April 2001, that the demolition was a pre-meditated and well-planned exercise carried out by experts who knew “structural engineering” – from the fact that the domes of the mosque fell from the base. While Nirmala Deshpande had gone into the logistics of the demolition, others referred to the secret meeting at the residence of BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit chief Vinay Katiyar, on 5 December 1992, attended by Advani, when the plan was finalised to bring down the mosque.
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 delivered inflammatory speeches which incited kar sevaks to demolish the mosque. Some of them are prominent people in the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendar Modi.
Accusing Narasimha Rao’s Congress government of being equally responsible for the destruction of Babri Masjid, the activists of Samajwadi Party burnt effigies of BJP leaders Kalyan Singh, Advani, Uma Bharathi, Murali Manohar Joshi and Congress leader Narasimha Rao.
Meanwhile Yousuf Muchala, counsel for victims of the communal riots in the aftermath of the demolition of Ayodhya mosque said, “It is not just the BJP or Sena who were responsible for the series of incidents that took place, but even the Congress governments were equally responsible. He reminded that Narasimha Rao promised to build a mosque at the same site. In fact, 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 prayers was going on there until 1949, irrespective of the date, what else could it be but a mosque?”
People in and around Ayodhya, both Hindus and Muslims, are fed up with the continuous tension in the town each time the VHP or BJP decides to make the temple an issue and launch a nationwide campaign for constructing a Ram temple.
Despite his role in the demolition of the mosque Advani was made Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister while others involved were later became respectable ministers.
It was a blatant attack on the secular ethos of the country.