Rebuilding the Babri Masjid Only Path to Build Secular India
When a group of Hindutva fascist terrorists razed the 15th-century Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, it just didn’t become a ‘black day’ for Indian secularism, it also became the day when the Indian ruling classes revealed their grotesque face to the world by tearing off the ‘secular mask they had been wearing since 1947 over their deeply Brahminical face. India started its journey towards officially becoming a Hindutva fascist theocratic state, ruled by the upper-caste elites, super-rich comprador capitalists, feudal landlords and usurers since that day.
No wonder, from only two in 1984 Lok Sabha election, the BJP managed to reach 120 in the 1991 Lok Sabha and formed its own stable government after six years in 1998, riding purely on bigotry and jingoism. Indian people, state after state, were polarised through a carefully planned strategy, which none of the parliamentary parties could combat and defeat. Babri Masjid demolition was truly an iconic event in the rise of Indian Hindutva fascism.
How could communalism and bigotry win in India, when the entire Indian subcontinent was known for liberal and secular values that held together diverse people and their vivid cultures together? How could a party like the BJP and an organisation like RSS get oxygen in a society that proudly called itself a progressive, liberal and secular society?
The problem wasn’t the Babri Masjid, it wasn’t for sure the existence of any Ram temple either. The problem was rooted in the colonial ambition of the British Empire, which wanted to exploit and plunder the Indian subcontinent unopposed and thus, it became imperative for it to utilise the contradiction between the Hindus and the Muslims for a big, nefarious and long-term political agenda. The BJP and other Hindutva outfits are simply pursuing the same colonial-era goal to consolidate their own strength and to help the foreign corporations extract huge super profit from India.
Babri Masjid, a desolate mosque in Ayodhya, became a bone of contention between the Hindus and the Muslims when the British East India Company officials, who became de facto rulers of Awadh during the tenure of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, allowed the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu fanatic sect, to occupy the mosque in 1853 and turn it into a Hindu place of worship. By spending thousands of rupees at that period, the British colonialists ensured that a communal trouble is created over the mosque.
By 1855, the Babri Masjid was divided into two halves by the British East India Company to allow the Hindu fanatics to pray in the same premises; the latter raised a ‘Ram Chabutra’ to pray. It was the Company’s carefully drafted strategy to have the Hindus and Muslims of Faizabad clash with each other over the land. However, despite periodic skirmishes, the unity of Hindus and Muslims during the Great Rebellion of 1857 frightened the colonial rulers and they started finding out ways to wreck that unity.
Soon after the British empire took over India from the East India Company after the Great Rebellion of 1857, the Ayodhya affair was fanned regularly by the British agents to ensure that the communal unity of the common people remains fractured so that the colonial rulers never face another 1857-type crisis situation. The British government prohibited the construction of any temple over the ‘Ram Chabutra’ in January 1885, against which the Hindu fanatics moved to the lower court, where an upper-caste Hindu judge dismissed their plea.
When the Hindu fanatics appealed to the court of the district judge, their appeal was dismissed there too in 1886, and finally, the Judicial Commissioner dismissed the appeal in November 1886 to close the chapter in a status quo. However, the British rulers didn’t stop their communal incitement in the area and the Ram Janmabhoomi (Rama’s birthplace) story was propagated in the villages across Awadh, Gwalior and various other places to build up a folklore about something that was going to change Indian political century 100 years later.
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement again got prominence in 1949, when the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha had to face a backlash due to the killing of MK Gandhi. It was then, as their attempt to regain prominence in the national political arena, the Hindutva camp, which acted as a lackey of the British imperialists during the direct colonial rule, tried to stir a communal riot over the mosque. They organised a religious programme outside the mosque premises in December 1949 through a proxy organisation and in connivance with a colonial-era reactionary and utmost Brahminical district magistrate, they (Hindu Mahasabha men) placed idols inside the mosque and blatantly lied to the public that these idols appeared miraculously due to their Ramayana programme.
Though Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel criticised the act, they didn’t prosecute the criminals who were spewing communal venom and were instrumental in having the idols placed within the mosque premises. Rather they locked the doors of the mosque and barred any religious practice there. This act was undone by Rajiv Gandhi, the second Hindutva icon of the Congress after Sanjay Gandhi, when he opened the gates of the Babri Masjid for daily worship of the ‘Ram lala’ in the premises.
Neither did the Congress fight against the heinous scheme of the Hindutva fascists who have been demanding the construction of a Ram temple at the site of the mosque nor did it protect the mosque with adequate security as the intelligence report predicted a conspiracy hatched by the Sangh as early as in February 1992 to demolish the mosque.
Adopting a soft approach towards Hindutva fascism, the Congress kept appeasing the upper-caste Hindu elites and feudal landlords. It never took any concrete stand on secularism to combat the RSS’ attempt to fuel communal riots over even trivial issues. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement was a big cakewalk for the Hindutva fascist camp, which became excessively powerful from the beginning of 1984 as they started getting a high amount of foreign donations through the CIA and the Mossad, both wanting a dominance over Indian politics to outmanoeuvre the Soviet Union, which sponsored the Congress Party.
The BJP was able to stir up a nationwide communal hysteria over the Ram Janmabhoomi issue in the 1980s because apart from paying lip service to ‘secularism’, about which they didn’t know anything, the Congress couldn’t take any step to stop the rage of the feral mob of Hindutva terrorists. It took a Janta Dal leader like Lalu Prasad Yadav to stop the Rath Yatra of Hindutva hate monger Lal Krishna Advani and imprison him when he tried entering Bihar. No other political leader in India showed the courage to stand up against the communal tirade as Lalu Prasad Yadav did during his tenure as the chief minister of Bihar did.
This act of Lalu Prasad Yadav brought him the Muslim votes forever, however, it also turned the Sangh Parivar into his arch-rival, which ensured that Lalu Prasad Yadav being implicated in one after another corruption cases, while other upper-caste politicians remained aloof from the clutches of law even after stealing many times more from the public exchequer than Lalu Prasad Yadav.
It was under the patronage of the Congress Party and other so-called ‘secular’ Janta Party splinters, that the BJP was able to draft a plan to demolish the Babri Masjid in association with the RSS and the VHP. The Congress government at the centre did nothing over the intelligence reports and was contented with the assurance from the Kalyan Singh-led Uttar Pradesh government, which promised that no harm will be done to the Babri Masjid due to the Kar Sewa.
PV Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister, always showed his soft corner towards the BJP and its Hindutva agenda since his tenure as a home minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet. His endorsement to the Hindutva fascist campaigning gave a morale booster to the likes of LK Advani, MM Joshi, AB Vajpayee and other leaders of the BJP to operate with utmost impunity.
The BJP and the RSS knew that inside the secular veil of the Congress and the Indian state lies a hardcore Brahminical core, which will support it all along the way and thus, it didn’t shy away from intensifying the vitriol against the Muslims and openly accuse it of being the ‘other’- the outsider in Indian mainstream, which has been portrayed as ‘Hindu’. They knew that it would be impossible for the Congress, full of Brahminical and feudal elements, to oppose their campaign because it won’t jeopardise its Hindu votes. Capitalising on this, the BJP managed to rise unchallenged in Indian politics.
Not only the Congress, since the Jana Sangha days, the Hindutva fascists used their clout on the Indian state and its nexus with the military and civilian administration to push forward a reactionary Hindutva-inclined state policy driven by Brahminical chauvinism and Islamophobia. Taking examples from Zionist movement in the occupied Palestinian land, the Hindutva fascists penetrated all ranks of the Indian state and started radicalisation of the upper-caste Hindus by intensifying Islamophobia since 1960s.
As the Indian ruling classes found satisfactory outcome in the riots of Ahmedabad, where labour unity was crushed by the communal juggernaut, they became liberal in financing the endeavours of the Hindutva fascist movement as an antidote to rising communist movement. It was then, between 1967 and 1977, that Hindutva fascism was recognised and rewarded with a berth in the Indian political mainstream divided between the Congress and the non-Congress entities at that period.
Electoral compulsion had earlier made people like Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan endorse the RSS as a positive force, which helped the saffron terrorist organisation to gain legitimacy in Indian mainstream and thereby open its own parliamentary wing- the BJP. The compulsion to include the BJP into his coalition made VP Singh also endorse the BJP during the height of the Ram temple agitation and an opportunist leftist Jyoti Basu to join hands with AB Vajpayee in a show of unity against the Congress.
Knowing well that a xenophobia exists in India regarding Pakistan since partition, the BJP well connected the Indian Muslims with Pakistan by twisting and manipulating the Islamic doctrine and made the fringe RSS campaigning over the Muslim community’s loyalty towards Pakistan- a mainstream campaign and one of such epidemic proportion that helped the party to gain immensely in the elections.
The people’s uprising against Indian occupation in Kashmir and the Pakistan-sponsored militancy, which was cited by the Jammu and Kashmir governor to organise an exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community from the valley, helped the BJP to spread the xenophobia about an ‘Islamist aggression’ with vigour and it actually reaped huge benefits for the party as in a semi-feudal, illiterate, poverty-inflicted and caste-divided society communalism sells like a hot cake.
Exploiting the anti-reservation sentiment prevalent among the upper-caste Hindus of India in the post-Mandal Commission period, which can also be called anti-Dalit and anti-OBC sentiment, the BJP managed to polarise a large number of upper-caste educated youth from the middle-class, who earlier remained aloof from Hindutva politics, to its fold. The Ram Mandir was presented as a matter of ‘pride’ for the Hindus, who, the Sangh claimed, have been enslaved since 1200 years to Islamic forces.
Before the onset of the Babri Masjid demolition, India experienced huge riots in Bhagalpur of Bihar, where the Yadavs, the vote bank of Lalu Prasad Yadav were the major support base of the VHP and RSS in executing a pogrom plan targeting Muslims. Meerut too had a ghastly riot organised and these events were helpful to polarise the Hindu masses against the Muslim community. Unsurprisingly they all took place under the Congress or other non-BJP governments. The Babri Masjid demolition on 6 December 1992 was just another excuse for the Hindutva-incensed masses to unleash another series of violent attacks on the Muslim community.
Using the Babri Masjid demolition as an example of ‘Hindu pride’, the BJP has been able to arouse a chauvinistic fervour among a large-section of upper-caste Hindus in the north Indian cow belt. It also managed to wean away a large number of Dalits and OBCs from the social-justice movement parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party by exploiting the anger and sense of deprivation that have been reigning in the lives of these people.
The only lollipop that the BJP could give them is- a life of pride, which will be achieved by defeating the ‘outsider’ Muslims. This is a reason that not only did they demolish the Babri Masjid, now when in power they are renaming each place that has a Muslim influence in its name. Though the secular democrats in the cities would call it an eye wash, the BJP and the RSS know that these moves cater to the hysteria they are trying to intensify throughout the nation at the grassroots.
As most of the poor are distancing themselves from the BJP politically for throwing them into the mire of a severe economic crisis during the four and half year-long reign of Narendra Modi, the Babri Masjid and the Ram temple are coming up more intensely in the discourse of the Sangh Parivar. They are now forcing the Congress and other so-called ‘secular’ parties to accept the demand of a Ram temple and formally join the Hindutva bandwagon, which will be another moral victory for the Sangh Parivar, after it ensured that the Congress chief hop around temples and reveal his ‘Brahmin’ identity to appease upper-caste voters.
In the post-Babri Masjid episode, while all parties have shown their anguish and disapproval over the demolition, none of them got the guts to promise the rebuilding of the mosque. A lot of ‘secular’ people suggest that a hospital or educational institution be built in place of a mosque or a temple. It, however, means, that at the loss of one place of worship of the minority community, which was forcefully razed by the majoritarian mob and not voluntarily given by minority community, something else will come up. This will not correct the historical wrongdoing but preserve it.
It will also fuel more such destruction of mosques in Kashi, Mathura and other places, wherever the Sangh claims that temples existed, including the Taj Mahal. For each mosque probably a school or hospital would come up, which are no doubt required in a large number in this country, however, with each of them at the place of a demolished mosque will signal the subjugation of the Muslim community and shrinking of its space to practice its religion freely and without fear as per the Constitution.
An educational institution or hospital can be built in place of a mosque or a temple if the community members gift the place for such a noble purpose voluntarily, but to do so on a land that was forcibly occupied would mean endorsing the occupation. Hence, the actual slogan of the secular forces must be “Masjid Wahi Banayenge” (will construct the mosque at the same place) rather than suggestions of vogue ‘dialogue’ to resolve the problem. Unless the demolished mosque is rebuilt on the same land, the dignity of the minority community will not be restored in this fractured quasi-secular state. It’s time that the army chief, who would advise neighbouring Pakistan to adopt secularism, think about a way that can prevent the repetition of the 6 December 1992.
It’s true that India can embrace true secularism only when the BJP is defeated, but it won’t be complete until the RSS along with its supply chain, the comprador crony capitalism and Brahminical feudalism, is uprooted from the country and the historical wrongdoings to the minority communities, from Nellie massacre to Kandhamal, from Gujarat pogrom to the Muzaffarnagar pogrom, from the lynching of Muslims by the cow vigilante Gau Rakshaks to the killers and rapists of 8-year-old Asifa Bano, are set right through affirmative action.
Unless we as a people work on this, more incidents like the demolition of Babri Masjid will keep happening, because as long the Hindutva fascism and its ecosystem exist, the minorities will suffer and the people will be divided according to the colonial-era scheme. Rebuilding the Babri Masjid remains the only way ahead to defeat the communal forces led by the RSS and unite the nation on secular and pluralist values.
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