The events that unfolded in Ayodhya on the day when sun shone weakly over that ancient city, carry so much ponderosity that its flames still pretty much define the political contours of 21st century India
WHEN history is unfolding, you scarcely realize its consequences. The importance of the event doesn’t dawn upon you.
In December 1992, our school was closing for winter break. Like any other schoolboy, I was brimming with happiness. For me the reasons were more than one. Pakistan the newly crowned world champions were playing a triangular series in Australia. They had started well. Defeating West Indies in the first game, and managing a tie in the next game with Australia- Asif Mujtaba hitting a six of the last ball.
Little had I, or millions like me any idea that the dawn of 6th December 1992 was to change destinies forever and charter a new political order in India. In the hindsight I don’t believe even VHP and BJP leaders imagined the impact (the recent 5th August 2019 episode in Kashmir is directly connected to the larger designs of that Hindutva plan).
The events that unfolded in Ayodhya — on a day when sun shone weakly over that ancient city, carry so much ponderosity that its flames still pretty much define the political contours of 21st century India. If there is one event after 15th August 1947 that reshaped India, it was the Babri Masjid demolition. It changed India. Forever.
Some 43 years ago, on 22nd December 1949 Haji Abdul Gaffar- the Imam of Babri Masjid locked the doors of the mosque after Isha prayers. Nothing unusual about it. Haji Gaffar’s family had been the head imams of Babri Masjid from last 8 generations. Ayodhya had always largely been non-communal- the Hindus and Muslims living in harmony. The Ram-Rahim bonhomie meant both sects freely mingled with each other, celebrating festivals and even eating together.
However, morning of 23rd December 1949 was to change everything that Ayodhya stood for. Haji Gaffar still had no premonition about what was to unfold. The Imam woke up early morning for Fajr prayers. After performing ablution he walked towards the mosque and unlocked its door. Inside the mosque, miraculously an idol of Ram had appeared.
After 1857 war, the British empire formally ruled over entire India. It is astonishing that in India at no given point of time were there more than 1 lakh Britishers; ruling over a population of more than 400 Million. The ploy was simple and clear. Disunity.
The British to quell Hindu-Muslim unity in the Hindu heartland of India, gave air to a rumor that Babar constructed a mosque on a temple site. Numerous archaeological surveys have denied any presence of a temple at the site.
Though the Britishers sow the seed of discord, under a mutual agreement Hindus worshipped Ram outside the compound, while Muslims prayed within the mosque itself.
This agreement ended when some Hindus in the ensuing night of 22nd December 1949 exported Ram idols inside into the mosque. District Collector K K Nayar, who later joined Jan Sangh, refused to remove the idols citing law and order reasons. The plan was well oiled.
The Hindus attributed this to the miraculous appearance of Ram Lalla inside the mosque. Mahant Ramsevak Das Shastri claimed that Ram appeared in his dream.
One of the head priests of Ram Janambhoomi trust — Pujari Laldas blamed VHP activists for the controversy. As per him, according to Hindu traditions temple is any structure where an idol is kept. Hence there is no question of destroying a structure and planting idols there. The Hindu scriptures have no references to such devilments. Pujari Laldas was murdered by unknown men in 1993.
The India of late 1980s was changing. If on one hand Rajiv Gandhi, its young dynamic Prime Minister had a vision about global India in technological sphere, yet its internal politics was decaying. Thrown hurriedly into politics after the assassination of his mother in Oct 1984, Rajiv Gandhi’s term as PM was disastrous. He relied far too much on his cousin Arun Nehru and rest of coterie. The reverberations of some of his hasty decisions transformed Indian politics and the destiny of his party. It is plain hypocrisy on part of Congress to shift the blame of Babri Masjid on PV Narsimha Rao; distancing and absolving Nehru-Gandhi family from it. While the fact was that Rajiv Gandhi played the Hindutva card and ordered the opening of Mandir gates in Ayodhya in 1986. The short sightedness of that decision continues to haunt Congress. In sense a Gandhi scion tragically gave impetus to a movement which LK Advani was to later start in 1989- The Rath Yatra.
Chanting slogans like ‘Jo sapne dekhte Babar ke, armaan nikal kar marenge, hum mandir wahin banayenge’ (Those who dream of Babar, we will wipe out their aspirations), Advani in a air-conditioned Toyota resembling a chariot, traveled across India, in his fiery speeches inferring that pseudo secularism won’t be tolerated in Hindu rashtra. It was ironic; Jawahar Lal Nehru had travelled the length and breadth of India in 1920s. An experience that was to change him and India’s struggle for freedom. The abject poverty that he saw, sowed seeds of nationalism in him. It also led him to write his scholarly book Discovery of India.
The Advani chariot was however charting a map of a different India. The Rath Yatra ultimately culminated into a well orchestrated plan that spawned out on 6th December 1992. The Kar Sevaks brought down 500 year old Babri Masjid, using axes and pixels. The state police vanishing from the spot, giving a free hand to Kar Sevaks.
Back in the days, news didn’t travel as fast. We saw the ghoulish images later in the evening on 9 o’clock DD news. Winter evenings tended to be long and bleak in Kashmir in the 90s. Grandfather was quiescent but calm. Having our dinner he nonchalantly spoke, ‘Masjid can be rebuilt. It doesn’t matter if they demolished it. God is everywhere.’ Grandfather was from Nehruvian era – a true liberal who never imposed or preached religion to anyone. I, certainly had no clue, sitting on that dinner sheet putting morsels of food into my mouth, that grandfather’s generation and their ideals under those grey cold teases of a December evening had begun to end.
P.S: The foundation stone of Ram Temple where once Babri Masjid stood, was laid on 5th August 2020. Six month earlier, The Supreme Court of India ordered the disputed land (1.77 acres) to be handed over to a trust (to be created by Government of India) to build the Ram Janmabhoomi (revered as the birthplace of Hindu deity, Ram) temple. The court also ordered the government to give an alternate 5 acres of land in another place to the Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque.
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