December 6 marks the completion of 25 years of the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. This was a momentous day for India. What was demolished was not just a 16th century mosque, but it was a direct challenge to the Indian Constitution and its secular-republican values.
December 6, 1992 can be seen as the milestone from where began the march of the Hindutva forces for political power. 25 years later, those forces are ensconced in the seat of power in Delhi.
What were the deceitful moves by the RSS-led forces then? They betrayed a solemn oath given to the Supreme Court that whatever would be done at Ayodhya in the form of kar seva will not affect the structure of the Masjid. Kalyan Singh, the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, gave a series of commitments to the court that the government would not allow any change in the status quo. Apprehending trouble, the National Integration Council, expressly summoned for the purpose, adopted a resolution without the BJP leadership's participation, which authorised the prime minister to take whatever steps necessary to uphold the constitution and the rule of law and in implementing the court's orders.
Despite the prohibitory orders around the site, tens of thousands of `kar sevaks' were allowed to assemble days before the kar seva. More than 20,000 central police forces were deployed in Ayodhya to stop any assault or effort to change the status quo. But they received no orders on the fateful day to act when the state government failed to take any action.
The RSS-led Hindutva forces with the backing of the Uttar Pradesh state government, were able to defy the might of the Indian State and the orders of the Supreme Court to carry out this brazen attack on the secular principle and the rule of law. That this was not about merely building a Ram temple at the disputed site but a vehicle for political mobilisation was apparent from the time the BJP National Executive meeting in Palampur adopted a resolution for building the Ram temple at Ayodhya in 1989. The infamous rath yatra led by LK Advani, which led to a trail of communal violence and destruction was the next step towards targeting the mosque itself. The BJP won the UP Assembly elections in 1991, riding on the Ram wave and the communal polarisation which took place. Throughout this period, the RSS-VHP combine made no secret of its resolve to build the Ram temple at the very site where the Babri Masjid stood.
If the RSS-led mobs completed the gory deed on December 6 at Ayodhya, the role of the then Narasimha Rao government at the centre was despicable. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao consciously decided not to act to stop the assault. Even after the first of the three domes of the Masjid had fallen, the central government did not intervene nor ask the central police forces to take action. In the days preceding December 6, despite reports from Central Intelligence that thousands are being assembled to attack the mosque and desperate pleas from Muslim community in Ayodhya, Narasimha Rao maintained that the RSS leaders had assured him that only puja would be undertaken at the site.
But the most shocking thing was the construction of a makeshift temple on the spot where the Masjid stood within hours of its destruction. This was allowed to happen despite the fact that President's Rule was imposed on December 7. The central government did nothing to remove the so-called makeshift temple.
Not only that, in January 1993, the government got the Ayodhya Act passed in parliament which legitimised this makeshift temple as the status quo till a final solution was arrived at. The earlier promise to rebuild the mosque at the original site was given up. Unfortunately, this Act was approved by the Supreme Court by a majority of 3:2. In the face of the most serious attack on the constitution and the rule of law, the Indian State and its instruments – the executive and the judiciary – failed to act decisively. The Congress government compounded this by its policy of appeasement and vacillation.
The Supreme Court is to begin hearing petitions appealing against the faulty Allahabad High Court judgement dividing the disputed site into three portions with the Muslims getting only a third of the site. The hearing begins on December 5 and already pressure is being built up to influence the Court. At Udupi, a Dharma Sansad organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad saw the RSS chief Bhagwat reiterate that the Ram temple will be built only at the site where the Masjid stood. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar conducted a farcical consultation to find an out-of-court settlement, reminiscent of such earlier maneouvres by pro-Hindutva Swamis.
The Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute remains a test for India's secularism and the Republican State. The lessons of 1992 must be learnt. There can be no compromise with forces who wish to dismantle India's secular-democratic Republic and install a Hindu Rashtra. It is to be hoped that those who thought that compromise and appeasement of the communal forces will solve the problem, have learnt lessons from the bitter consequences of their opportunism.
There is no other way than taking a firm stand in defence of secularism and mobilising the people to fight against the dark forces of reaction.
The author is Member Polit Bureau, CPI(M)