“If secularism goes, this country will go to pieces”, PV Narsimha Rao said on the fateful evening

“We demolished Babri Masjid in 17 minutes, why Modi government is taking so much time on Ram Temple”.
File Photo
File Photo

On 6th December, 1992 the news of demolition of 464 years old mosque cast a gloom over 180 million Indian Muslims. I perfectly remember, on that fateful evening, the then PM of India, PV Narsimha Rao, came to address the Indian people on Doordarshan. He strongly condemned the communal act of destroying Babri Masjid. He looked very upset & said "if secularism goes, this country will go to pieces", I recollect these precise words of PV N Rao.

Both national & international press prophesied in their next day publications that India's secular fabric had been damaged beyond repair and that it would now fall into the abyss of Hindu chauvinistic nationalism. Albeit Indian State did not fall into civil war like situation, its secular credentials were, however, seriously doubted after Babri Demolition. Moreover, the rise of pan-Hindu nationalistic wave that was responsible for the tragedy wasn't curbed, and it continues to spread its poisonous tentacles to more shores of communal harmony & peace of Indian society.

"There is no historical evidence", writes celebrated author Ramchandra Guha in the backdrop of Babri Demolition, "that the hero of epic Ramayana was a historical character, but Hindu sentiment and myth widely held that he was, and that he had been born in Ayodhya at the very spot where the mosque was later built ….known locally Ram-Janmabhoomi (piece of earth where Ram was born),…." (India After Gandhi (2007), pages 582-583) After BJP, which is successor of old Jan Sangh & political face of  all RSS affiliated pan-Hindu groups & ideologues, won majority vote in 16th Lok Sabha elections of 2014, the propagation & propaganda of the mythical belief that the site is Ram's birthplace has received more support & official patronage from the Indian State & its institutions. In fact, BJP has won the general election & other State elections fundamentally for its Ram-Janmabhoomi Temple politics, as it has been promising the majority community that it will build Ram Temple over the "disputed" site. Now what then stops it (despite holding majority vote in Parliament) from fulfilling its election-promise or core-agenda-point is the fact that there are two petitions pending in the Supreme Court. One is about the dispute over ownership of Ram temple-land and second is in respect of criminal charges against the BJP-Sanghparivar leaders who allegedly played role in enticing the Kar Sevaks for demolition that resulted into immediate communal flare up consuming 2000 Indian lives. These two cases seem to be only hindrance to the ruling amalgam of pan-Hindu parties to go ahead with its agenda of full scale construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya.

On November 24th 2017, RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, while addressing the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-organised Dharm Sansad conclave of Hindu religious leaders in Udupi, said that "on Ram Janmabhoomi, the Ram mandir alone will be built, and nothing else". Last month, Shiv Sena leaders organised Dharam Sabha at Ayodhya where they dared Modi government to wake up from "Kumbhakarna-like slumber" and declare the date for the construction of Ram temple. They said that "We demolished Babri Masjid in 17 minutes, why Modi government is taking so much time on Ram Temple". They urged Modi government to bring legislation or an ordinance for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya before the verdict of the Apex Court )The Economic Times dated 23-11-2018 & 24-11-2018) where the related case is pending adjudication & will be taken up in January, 2019 for listing before appropriate bench. Are these pressure tactics or attempt to influence the court? (See AM Ahmadi ex-CJI interview in Scroll. in dated 03-12-2017) Fearing more bloodshed, and most reasonably so, in case the SC decides the ownership of the "disputed" land in favour of either of two religious communities, Citizens for Justice and Peace, NGO run by great HR activist, Teesta Setalvad, has moved the SC with a third petition signed by 32 prominent citizens of India praying that the site be allotted for "non-religious public use, irrespective of adjudication of the suit".

Babri Masjid was constructed by Mir Baqi of Tashkand on the orders of Mughal emperor of India, Babar, in 1528, and it is named after him.  From 1528 to 1852, no body, no group, ever raised a dispute about the site on which the Babri Masjid was constructed. It was first time in 1853 when a group of armed Hindus, Nirmohi Akhara, tried to force their entry into the masjid to occupy it. They claimed that it was built at the site where Ram, Hindu deity, was born. This was first time such a claim was heard & made by a Hindu group. However, according to Prof Ram Puniyani neither author of Ramayana (epic tale of Ram), Valmiki, has mentioned of birthplace of Ram nor Tulsi Das, the highest ever devouted-Bhaghat of Ram who lived during Babar's time, has anywhere hinted in his writings that such an incident of demolition of a big temple like Ram temple took place. (The Siasat Daily dated 06-12-2017) As the communal tensions increased within next few years, in 1859 local British administration had to step in to control the situation. It ordered that the boundary wall be erected between inner court & outer court of the masjid; Muslims were allowed to pray inside while Hindus could worship outside on a raised platform, called Ram Chabutara. (BBC News South Asia 06-12-2012) In 1885 a first regular suit seeking permission to construct concrete canopy on Ram Chabutara was filed by Nirmohis Akhara through its Mahant Raghubir Das in Faizabad court which was rejected by the court on the ground that worship by two communities in the same premises would cause threat to communal harmony. (Live-mint dated 03-09-2010; Outlook, dated 27-09-2010)

Just after two years of India's independence during intervening night of 22-23nd December, 1949, some Hindus led by Sant Digvijay Singh of Gorakhnath Math, Gorakhpur, India, broke locks of the masjid & placed idols of Child Ram (Ram Lalla) inside the ground of the masjid & the common Hindus were made to believe that the idols had "miraculously" appeared inside the masjid which again showed, according to them, that the site was birthplace of Ram. To avoid large scale communal tensions following above development, the local government locked the gates of the Babri Masjid.( Daily.O dated 06-12-2017) Till that fateful December of 1949, or conversely put before India had won independence in 1947, there was complete peace & communal harmony in Ayodhya. (Ibid.)

In February 1986, Shah Banu verdict of the SC was delivered.  Rajiv Gandhi was PM of India. Following Shah Banu verdict, the Protection of Rights of Muslim Women on Divorce Act, 1986 was passed for the purpose mentioned in the title of the Act. He faced lot of pressure from right wing Hindu groups for alleged "appeasement" of the Muslims by passing the said law. In December, 1986 the District Judge, Ayodhya ordered the locks of the masjid be opened for worship (Sheela Pujan) of the "placed" idols by Hindu devotees; which meant naturally to be performed inside the masjid. 

In 1991 BJP-man Kalyan Singh, who was CM of UP acquired the land around & allowed Hindu devotees to have darshan glimpse of Ram Lalla placed inside the masjid. He was CM at the time Babri Masjid was razed to ground on 6th December, 1992.

From 1950-61, three suits were filed by Hindu groups including one by Nirmohi Akhara claiming possession & ownership of the site & Central Sunni Muslim Waqf Board countered the litigation by responsive suits. In 1989, all four suits were ordered to be transferred to the Allahabad High Court. Finally, in 2010, Lukhnow Bench of Allahabad High Court by the ratio of 2:1 disposed of the suits & held that 2.27 acres of disputed Babri masjid-Ram Janambhoomi should be divided into three parts, 1/3rd each to be partitioned between Hindhu Mahasabha, Nirmohi Akhara and Central Sunni Waqf Board. The innermost sanctum sanctorum of the site was allotted to the Hindus by the Court on the ground that it is a common "perception" of Hindus of India that Ram was born at that very site. However, both sides appealed against the judgment in the SC where it is, as stated above, awaiting final adjudication.  It will be listed in January, 2019 for adjudication before appropriate bench of the Supreme Court. In the meanwhile, two principal parties & witnesses of the cases have already died which may impact decision.  (The Hindu dated 05-12-2017.)

views expressed are personal & not of the organisation author works for.


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