By Krishna Jha
The 30th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition is December 6. The wound is still livid. Razing down of Babri Masjid was a major step towards destroying our composite culture. It was also a part of the Ayodhya strategy of Hindutva forces that awaits its completion. To remove the hurdles from the path towards autocratic rule, they had managed to remove Bapu, and later, they destroyed the 16th century structure of Babri Masjid illegally, gleefully on December 6, 1992. They had realised that the challenge posed by Bapu could never be reined in because in his life time itself, he had comprehensively countered the project of Hindu Rashtra forcing its advocates, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindu Mahasabha, to the margins of Indian politics.
It was only Gandhi who could do it with his immense moral power and his all-out efforts as the supreme leader of the anti-British struggle that in a short span after Independence, the validity of the vision of a secular and democratic nation seemed beyond question. It rose above the turmoil of the time and became the unifying principle of the post-Independence India. It was this secular project of Independent India that was sought to be derailed by the assassination of Gandhi.
Babri Masjid, in its quiet presence, symbolized the secular and democratic ethos that we inherited from Gandhi. By demolishing it, they sought to revive communal-fascist strategy that had been thrown to the margin by popular anger generated in the wake of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The demolition of Babri Masjid thirty years ago shook the very core of the nation and furthered the Ayodhya strategy which had started on the night of December 22, 1949, a little less than two years after Gandhi’s assassination. Late that night, a little known sadhu, Abhiram Das, with his followers entered Babri mosque, and planted an idol of Ram inside it.
The act created ripples, seen in the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter on March 5, 1950 to K G Mashruwala, editor of Harijan, the journal founded by Mahatma Gandhi, “You refer to Ayodhya Mosque. The event occurred two or three months ago, and I have been very gravely perturbed over this.” Jawaharlal Nehru could visualize the coming danger in the garb of majoritarianism, that was to crush the minorities and destroy the cultural ethos. Secularism was their main enemy. With rabid communalism as their leading light, they tried to consolidate the gains they had made in the temple town. But success remained as elusive as always to them.
The turmoil created by the planting of the idol of Ram in the Babri Masjid gave way to legal battles. It was sacrilege, yet permission for carrying on the rituals for the idol was given by the court.
The issue remained politically dormant for over three and a half decades when it was revived by the RSS. It got the national attention which quickly turned it into the focal point of religious tensions between the two communities. To make the Ayodhya strategy more effective, the RSS conceived an elaborate plan to communalise the body politic.
Keeping Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its electoral outfit, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), its affiliate responsible for mobilizing sadhus, in the front, the RSS set out to win the support of Hindus and Hindu religious groups through a series of mass ritual actions, use of religious imageries and conclaves of Hindu religious leaders for the campaign. The BJP president at the time, LK Advani, went on to start a Rath Yatra – a Toyota truck modified into a chariot – around the country to rally Hindus to the cause. His journey – yatra – began on September 25, 1990 at Somnath in Gujarat, where a temple had been destroyed by a Central Asian Muslim invader, Mahmud Ghazni, in the eleventh century. The yatra was planned to go through hundreds of villages and cities in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh before reaching Ayodhya. Though Advani was arrested before he could enter Uttar Pradesh, his yatra, by bringing militant Hindu sentiments to the fore and provoking communal riots along its route, transformed the BJP into a major political force in the country.
A series of events thereafter, carried out by the RSS and its affiliates, culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.
The demolition was a stunning shock. It shook the inner core of the nation and revealed how the communal-fascist forces had made yet another bid to force India away from the secular-democratic path. By assassinating Gandhi in 1948, they had thought they would succeed. But the path that nation opted was not what they were keen about, it was robustly secular and democratic, the inheritance of Bapu. The attempts to push the country into chaos, fragmenting its identity, by demolition of Babri Mosque would never claim success. The offering of a ready-made and prefabricated Hindu majoritarian identity for the nation, the one that India had wrestled against in the past and which Gandhi had fought relentlessly and died for, would never succeed and be rejected lock, stock and barrel. (IPA Service)