November 14, 2017

India: In the quarter of a century since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Hindu communal prejudices have acquired greater legitimacy

Past Continuous: Twenty-Five Years on, Tremors of Babri Masjid Demolition Continue to Be Felt

A fortnightly column reflecting on chapters of India’s political past that are relevant today.

A violent mob mobilised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh parivar demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

Twenty-five years ago, India was in a ferment of a different kind. The backdrop was provided by the Congress under P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was running its first minority government. The BJP had emerged as the principal opposition for the first time and its new-found stature provided credibility to L.K. Advani’s claim that his party was the government-in-waiting.
But while one priority sector of the government was the economy, with liberalisation having been ushered in and globalisation on the anvil, on another critical issue that necessitated dedicated attention, Rao’s approach was apathetic, to say the least. He allowed the communal tiger to not just raise its head but also consume India in a gory round of violence which was soon met with a response.
The BJP fought the 1991 polls without major alliance partners and yet emerged as the second-largest party. For a party which had just two members in the Lok Sabha before the 1989 elections, this astonishing growth had come on the back of the several-years-long Ram janmabhoomi agitation to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya after demolishing the Babri Masjid. Polls for the tenth Lok Sabha were called early in 1991 because of the temple imbroglio and consequently, Rao was aware it required immediate attention. Yet, not inexplicably, he allowed the conflict to drift through 1991 and early months of 1992. The BJP was allowed a virtual free-run and it violated the judicial process through the Uttar Pradesh government it headed.
When we revisit the 18-month period beginning June 1991 from when Rao assumed office to December 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished by a pre-determined mob assembled by various sections of the Sangh parivar, there is no escaping the conclusion that the Indian state never abandoned its domestic responsibility to uphold rule of law to such extent ever before. Similarly, there is no denying that despite Advani’s submission that December 6, 1992, was the “saddest day” in his life, the act was wilfully staged to foist the understanding that Indian nationalism was based on cultural nationalism or in a lay person’s terms, a nationalism depicted as being rooted in the Hindu culture of the land. Other cultural and religious streams were part of ‘Hindu culture’ it was argued.
Shortly after his release from a comfortable stay – though under judicial custody – in a government guest house a short distance from Jhansi, Advani astounded everyone by declaring that the Ayodhya agitation had never been to “just build” a Ram temple. Instead, he elaborated, it was a device to propagate Hindutva as an alternate national vision to what was adopted and pursued post-independence. That statement exposed the real agenda of the Sangh parivar. In the quarter of a century since the demolition, much of India has been altered, perhaps irreversibly. [. . .]
FULL TEXT HERE: https://thewire.in/196553/babri-masjid-demolition/