The wounds inflicted on India’s secularism and democracy by the demolition of the Babri Masjid 25 years ago are still raw. And the ongoing push by the BJP Governments and its agents to construct a temple where the mosque once stood is rubbing salt into those wounds.
The findings of the Justice Liberhan Commission of Enquiry had – albeit belatedly – established what was obvious from the start: the demolition was ‘meticulously planned’ and executed with the full collusion of Sangh and BJP leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti. In the name of the Ram Temple, communal violence was inflicted all over the country on the minority Muslim community. The demolition and communal conflagration was used by the BJP to reap votes and dramatically increase its presence in Parliament.
Not only was the Masjid demolished – in the past 25 years, there has been a sustained effort to demolish the very hope of justice. In May 2017, the Supreme Court directed that Advani, Joshi, and Uma Bharti, would face trial for conspiracy charges in Babri case. But even while that trial is yet to be complete, the Supreme Court has begun hearing appeals to the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict in the matter of the title suit of the Ayodhya land, that had ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acre area at Ayodhya among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Ram Lalla deity. Why is Supreme Court rushing to settle the land dispute aspect of the Ayodhya case, before the criminal matter of the violent demolition is settled? By allowing the Babri Masjid to be demolished, the then BJP Government of Uttar Pradesh had broken its solemn promise to the Supreme Court. By seeking to give priority to the title suit dispute over the quest for justice in the criminal act of demolition, the Supreme Court is undermining its own stature.
The Babri Masjid demolition – from a Constitutional point of view – is not a mere chapter in a property dispute. The demolition struck at the heart of secular India: by seeking to establish a temple where a historic mosque had been demolished by an RSS mob, the RSS and BJP sought to claim India as a fascist Hindu Rashtra. The demolition of the mosque was a symbolic attempt to destroy the idea of Muslims as a part of the Indian nation. Today, 25 years after the mosque was demolished by a mob, the fascist forces have grown bolder, organizing murderous mob attacks against Muslims every other day, confident of the backing of the Modi Government at the Centre and in many states. Muslims are being attacked on the pretext of ‘saving cows’ – and often, on the mere basis that they are wearing caps or other symbols of Muslim identity.
Prime Minister Modi catapulted to power claiming to deliver ‘vikas’ – and using the ‘development’ slogan to mask the BJP’s core communal and pro-corporate politics. Today, even Modi’s bastion of Gujarat is rising up in anger to expose the hollow claims of the ‘Gujarat model of development.’ In the Uttar Pradesh civic poll results show a 10-12 percent drop in the BJP’s vote share from the 42% vote share it had in the UP assembly polls some months ago. The results indicate that the Adityanath Government’s attempts to play up the temple issue and even play communal politics over the Taj Mahal to cover up its abysmal performance on all fronts including healthcare, farmers’ welfare, and women’s security and dignity, seem to have failed. It is in this situation, Modi is resorting to open communal propaganda in a desperate bid to manage a win for the BJP in the Gujarat Assembly polls.
Sangh agents and BJP leaders are now working overtime to try and create a myth of a ‘consensus’ for a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood. It would be a shame, however, for the Supreme Court to allow such a travesty to take place.
The struggle for justice for the Babri Masjid demolition will never be forgotten or abandoned. The perpetrators of the demolition must be punished – and their successors today must be prevented from demolishing secular, democratic India and replacing it with the fascist mob rule called ‘Hindu Rashtra.’