Today marks the 25th anniversary of the incident we known as Babri Masjid demolition. The event was unprecedented in the history of India, being a matter of joy for some and a matter of shame for many. How exactly have things transpired in last 25 years? Where do we stand today with the “issue”? Let’s find out.
The story of Babri Masjid began in 1949, when idols of Hindu gods were kept inside the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya. Complaints filed by both Muslim and Hindu communities resulted in closing the masjid and declaring it as a “disputed structure.” Things would have been much better for India if the matter died then and there. But that wasn’t to be. In 1990, the demand to replace the mosque with a temple of Lord Ram gained fresh momentum. Led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and supported by Bhartiya Janta Party, their demand centered around the theory that the mosque was built by demolishing a temple in the 15th century and was supposedly erected at the same place where Lord Ram was born.
However, no one saw what was about to transpire. The situation took a drastic turn when BJP leader L K Advani was arrested, along with many others, on his way to Ayodhya in 1990. This led to BJP taking back its support from the current government and a polarization of national politics. For the next two years, Ram Mandir remained a topic on everyone’s lips, until the fateful day of December 6, 1992. Hundreds of Karsevaks climbed upon the roof of the mosque and demolished it while installing a temple in its place.
This single event completely changed Indian politics forever. Never had we witnessed such an act of vandalism, that too on a 450-year old building that was officially a part of Indian heritage sites. Cases were filed against BJP top leaders like Advani, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti for conspiracy. The charges were dropped and revised many times, and currently stand as the latest appeal to drop the charges was dismissed by the Supreme court.
But the demolition had a far-reaching impact on Indian society. The communal hatred between Hindus and Muslims that was slowly disappearing after 1947 partition gained new reasons. The ugliest aspect of it was seen in 2002, when a train carrying karsevaks on their way to Ayodhya was burnt by a Muslim mob near Godhra, Gujarat. The cruel act of violence gave a spark to communal hatred, leading to widespread riots in Gujrat and mass murder of Muslims by Hindus. The wounds of Gujrat riots still haunt us.
The biggest beneficiary of this incident was perhaps BJP. “Mandir Wahi Baneyege” became their rally call and helped them to gain the Hindu vote bank in the northern region. It was part of their manifesto in the 2014 General Elections, which was one of the reasons why Narendra Modi won an absolute mandate for BJP, while BJP won the UP election earlier this year for similar reasons. While no concrete step has been taken by BJP to build the temple in Ayodhya, their verbal remarks are enough to testify that they are determined about the agenda.
Amidst all this, the court case of the matter still lingers. In 2003, ASI uncovered evidence that once a temple stood at the place of the mosque, giving strength to the theory that the mosque was built by destroying a Ram temple, though this was challenged by All India Muslim Personal Law Board. In September 2010, the Allahabad High Court gave the landmark judgment in which the entire area of the disputed structure was divided between Sunni Central Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ramlalla Virajman. But still, the situation never improved. Since BJP’s rise to power, fresh demands of making Ram Mandir in the entire avenue started rising too. More recently, the Shia Wakf Board proposed building the mosque in Lucknow while the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, but the Sunni Wakf Board rejected this proposal altogether.
The big question that remains is this: Why is this still an issue? With thousands of mosques and lakhs of temples in India, why is Ayodhya the center of our religious chauvinism? The entire issue smells of propaganda and vote-bank politics, but still, generations of Hindus and Muslims have fallen prey to it. Given the present scenario, it doesn’t seem likely that people would see sense anytime soon.