Sunday, December 05, 2004

Babri Masjid

It is twelve years since the Hindutva fanatics demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Perhaps no other day in independent India's history signifies and symbolizes the communal polarization, mutual hatred, and a contempt for rule of law, so blatant in our society today, as that black Sunday in December 92. We saw Golwalkar in action, "teaching" Indian Muslims how they should lead their lives in India as "second rate" citizens -- citizens without any rights.

Though I had known it very well that these fanatics could stoop to any low to gain political mileage, I hadn't thought till that day, in fact till the All India Radio confirmed the demolition in its evening news, that the struture would actually be grounded. I had the rather simplistic impression that the "karsevaks" would enter the disputed site, with the help of the friendly police, and might even damage the masjid a little bit, but wouldn't dare to do the total demolition. As a not so politically conscious teenager, this perhaps was understandable. Unfortunately the then prime minister Narasimha Rao, it appears now, was just as naive, willing to trust an Advani and a Kalyan Singh on their word that the Masjid wouldn't be demolished.

In the days followed, people were behaving in pretty strange -- or was that more natural then? -- ways. I could see many friends of mine from the Muslim community keeping a distance from me and other non-Muslims. The behaviour of several of my Hindu friends was even more strange. Many were ecstatic about the destruction that took place in Ayodhya -- several ordinary Hindu teenagers parrotted local RSS hooligans, for a short period though. When our college reopened after a fortnight of bandhs, hartals, strikes, and a general everything-isn't-alright atmosphere, my closest friend confessed to me that though he couldn't justify Gandhi's assassination -- many on the "secular" side were talking a lot about the parallels between the Masjid demolition and Gandhi's assassination -- he sympathized with Godse's position. As one can see, talking in extremes was the norm.

This was the period when I started taking a keener interest in political matters. Though never very active in day-to-day activism, I decided to pay more attention to what such local activists say. I found that those who actually work with people and their problems weren't floundering at difficult times, unlike some of the bookish liberal intellectuals. In societal matters, words of those who are willing to make sacrifices, started appealing to me more, than the dull rigour of "academic" logic.

Back to Babri Masjid, for a "secularist", today it is politically correct to say that the issue should be settled in court. On the whole, our judiciary is exemplary, and I believe this issue can be settled in court. But I think a truly secular government should be willing to undo the wrong, and the right thing to do is to rebuild the masjid there. If I advocate anything less than this, I can't but feel that I'm indirectly siding with the demolishers.


At 6:38 AM, Blogger Amardeep said...

Excellent post. I especially like the details of how the event polarized students at your college. And the comment at the end about what a truly "secular" government would do.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks Amardeep. I'm happy that you too think that's the right solution. Thanks also for the nice words on your blog about Locana.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks also to Antara and Kaushik for linking to this post.

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting that you state a historical wrong has to be righted - for it was the same reason that was used to demolish the Babri Masjid.

For, the court chronicles of the mughals(and earlier muslim rulers) clearly highlight the temples that were razed and the mosques constructed on them.

Now, if we go on correcting History, I suppose, we really would have to make this a Hindu-only nation.

not a very pleasant - or realistic - option.

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Anand said...


I'm all for "righting the wrongs", when we are certain about two points. First, the "wrong" has to be identified and understood. Second, "righting" should not be by committing another "wrong" which will have to be "righted" again. The 1992 demolition is a wrong, all of us have witnessed that act of vandalism, we know the culprits. According to me, the right solution is punishing the culprits and building the masjid there.

Now whether or not Babar had committed a wrong in constructing a masjid there. First, it's not clear, as you suggest, that Babar razed a temple in order to build this mosque. I have not yet seen a serious historical argument asserting that view. On the other hand there's enough evidence suggesting the contrary, and several professional historians conclude in that direction. Second, even if Babar built the mosque over a temple, was that a "wrong" then? I do not know. There are many many possibilities, and we shouldn't be making a judgement based on vague guesses. Third, assume that Babar's act was indeed "wrong", by any measuring scale, and everybody agrees on that. In that case too, demolition of the masjid doesn't right that, it's just committing another wrong.

Well, the point is this. We have seen a terrible criminal act in demolishing Babri Masjid. No argument, whether or not supported by facts, can justify this crime. We can correct the mistake if we want to. In any case, mixing up this concrete situation that we have with imagined stories/histories will not be solving any of our problems.

If X was robbed last week, my sense of justice tells me that X should get the stolen stuff back. The knowledge that a Y had robbed a certain Z decades ago do not solve the issue. Not to speak of the case when even that is not very clear!

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Mithun said...

Nice thoughts and well written. I have decided to fully agree with you on the matter.

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You made your answer to Anonymous's post specific to Babri Masjid alone. Anonymous might have been referring to other well known historical wrongs - destruction of many other hindu temples by muslims kings. On your quest to set the record straight you might want to consider the deliberate destruction of hindu temples as crimes as well and condemn them as such.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

As I mentioned earlier I think we do not know what was wrong or right in a different period. Were there deliberate destructions of Hindu temples by Muslims? There could have been such incidents. There could have been incidents where Hindu kings destroying Muslim places of worships as well. There could also have been instances where Hindu kings destroying Hindu temples. It's a complex history.

But I do not comprehend why all these facts/beliefs need to water down my sense of anguish about the Babri Masjid episode that I've tried to express in the above post. And therefore I do not intend to take this space to condemn any other incident other than the demolition of Babri Masjid. I do not buy any argument that tries to hint that the demolition was in some sense righting a wrong.

At 5:39 AM, Blogger irisomnibus said...

I recently saw a documentary film which u might be interested in considering your affinity for such topics, called Men in the Tree by Lalit Vacchani...This is a sequel to the film The Boy in the Branch commissioned by channel 4 uk.The first film(made before the Babri Masjid Demolition) dealt with how the RSS indoctrinated young hindu boys at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.Eight years later he goes back to film those very boys he filmed in the first examine the changes in their lives and what they were doing when the Babri Masjid was demolished...
What struck me there was how one of them self-righteously claimed to have helped in the demolition ..and sees everything but wrong in his doing.He has absolutely no doubts about it.While another boy ,though younger now has no affiliations with the RSS and has no concrete opinion on the Demolition ...Its seems he is in another realm..where such things dont seem to matter.I've realised ,it is the case of the middle and uppermiddle class urban youth of distending themselves from the religio-political state around ,which i am fortunately or not, undoubtedly a part of . here is an excerpt from the movie"We had entered RSS territory expecting to confirm our received images of fascism.Instead what we found was far more ingenious in its si mplicity: the lure of the playground where the hopes and dreams ,fears and anxieties of the ordinary young people was the banal face of fundamentalism."
Another docu to watch is "FINAL SOLUTion " by rakesh sharma ..Brilliant in its uncovering of the hindutva politics of hate in gujarat 2003(godhra),albeit incredibly biased(nothing wrong about that ,it might as well be the truth) and efficiently incriminating the Hindutva fortress.We actually met him in our college and he seemed a tired soul after virtually nine hours of incriminating edited footage had to be cut down.Also he can only screen it abroad..and he tries to dissuade the NRI's from donating generously to social welfare funds that extract money from them ..w2hich are really fronts for the RSS .
Anyway , its sad to know Kolatkar died..i just read his Old Woman for my lit. back in pune (now in bangalore studying design)
and lovd his crisp usage of words.
Interesting blog by the way.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger kgroupie said...

I love reading points of view very different from mine, so read your post.
First let me comment on your reply to Anonymous. I lost me completely at the point were you write "Second, even if Babar built the mosque over a temple, was that a "wrong" then?". I could'nt beleive the naivete of your statement. If that was'nt wrong then how could Babri Masjid demolition be wrong. I agree with anonymous that you don't "righting" the wrongs of the past, either that of Babar or RSS.
A truly secular government will reslove the issue for India and not for Hindus and Muslims. India is a Hindu majority country, it is fact and it must be accepted and there were this problem begin. When I was in school, I remember othe middle class Hindu kids like me who came from a cultured background and toppers in class always feeling that the politicians are biased towards Muslims and minorities. How the Muslims organised themselves well against adversities and how we Hindus fought among overselves. Babri Masjid movement was a response to that. The inner desire of a vast passive Hindu majority to assert itself. Whether it was wrong or right, it happened and no one can change that. How can you punish for people to have desires???

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 11:52 PM, Blogger uma said...

i'm coming into this comments page six months too late, but i have to say that i'm mystified by this comment:

the middle class Hindu kids like me who came from a cultured background and toppers in class always feeling that the politicians are biased towards Muslims and minorities. How the Muslims organised themselves well against adversities and how we Hindus fought among overselves.

perhaps this was because the 'middle class Hindu kids...from a cultured background and toppers in class (sic)' had been indoctrinated into believing this. because they were kids, after all. children wouldn't come up with such appalling thoughts on their own.

if india as a whole had really been biased towards all minorities of every kind - religious, dalits, tribals, and so on - we would have been a far better country.

and anand, excellent post. i especially support your statement:

And therefore I do not intend to take this space to condemn any other incident other than the demolition of Babri Masjid.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks Uma. I'm worried that there's now a spurt in such machanisms of indoctrination. This time when I went home, I heard about a new school for Hindu kids, where to get admission parents need to go with their children's horoscope. They need to know the caste too. If you can't change the text books throughout a state, you start your own schools -- that seems to be the mindset!

At 2:24 PM, Blogger jitendra said...

Even i m late on this post by 8 months.

One wrong cannot justify other wrong. Very true.

However, I am not sure what exactly do you mean by this:
"..even if Babar built the mosque over a temple, was that a "wrong" then? I do not know."

Lets for the sake of argument assume that Babar demolished the temples to built the mosque. If he did, it indeed was a wrong. Period. Going by your logic, the only way to *right* that wrong is to build a temple.

I repeat , one wrong cannot be used to *right* another wrong. However, you cannot look at one wrong in isolation.

A child X break's child Y's doll without any provocation, and Y hits back and break's X's doll. What you are doing is, concentrating only on what Y did to X and declaring Y as a culprit. But you seem oblivious of the fact that X began all this, and Y needs to be compensated with a doll before X.

If you are really looking at a solution, why not go to the root cause of it. Of course, thats for the ASI to investigate whether the mosque was build on a ravaged temple.

Neither am I a muslim-phobic, nor a staunch hindu. But all I can say (from logic and only logic) is, IF a temple was razed to the ground to build a mosque, that is WRONG. And razing of that mosque thereafter is also WRONG. Solution? Go to the root cause. If at all anything needs to be built at ayodhya, it HAS to be a temple. Else, just declare it as a disputed site till eternity.

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anand said...

Jitendra -- I repeat: I'm not in a position to comment on the rights and wrongs of building/demolishing structures many centuries ago. But I do understand acts of violence and vandalism that happened when I was a student and this post was about that.

For the sake of argument now you assume that Babar did not demolish a temple to build a mosque. What's your logical derivation now? From the way you stressed logic -- from logic and only logic -- I would have assumed that you would argue with this assumption as well.

At 3:01 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

continuing on the late comments, I think it is crucial to distinguish between a majority community 'asserting' itself from a minority community doing something similar. The former case going out of hand is a much greater risk. In India, the escalation of this has gone beyond the limits of sanity. Riots in Mumbai, Gujarat are examples.
And.. I find it particularly surprising that people are ready to extrapolate so much back it time. If there have been inhuman acts in the past, it does not mean that we undo them with another callous, irresponsible act. And buliding a temple there would be precisely that! Can't we think better than a bunch of self-proclaimed rulers who thought that their only motive was to conquer?

At 3:11 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

and jitendra,. it isn't just X,Y. I can't stand trial for something that a n-th order ancestor of mine had 'allegedly' done.

And anand, though I share ur respect of our judiciary, I think it worth noting that there have been a few cases that have been pending for generations. In such issues, this asking for trouble! A yes/no in 1950s would have gone un-noticed (which is the way it should be-- there are umpteen land disputes, this is just another).. but not now.

At 4:05 AM, Anonymous Anand said...

True Aswin. I was also a bit ambiguous (& being politically correct!) when I said the court could settle the issue. Further a judicial settlement gives the hope of a lasting solution.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger jitendra said...

My other assumption was implicit enough. I reiterate. IF sometime down the line all this babr-destryoed-the-temple theory turns out be just a gossip, then mosque should be rebuild. This topic no longer remains debatable then.

But I was expecting a reasonable explanation from you on "..even if Babar built the mosque over a temple, was that a "wrong" then?"

Aswin: For the sake of argument, suppose 100s of years down the line it is proved that there was no temple at all at the disputed site, would it be proper to say that my "n-th order ancestors" destroyed the mosque, so there is no question of building it now.

My X and Y formula still stands. No one is willing to look at things in totality.
A fact is a fact is a fact, and it is not a function of time, be it n-th order or 1st order.

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anand said...

Jitendra -- Let me stress here that I do not agree with your logic at all. Independent India, a secular republic, does need to have a sense of fairness and justice that does not dig up the past to see what might or might not have happened then in order to justify sheer acts of terrorism.

IF sometime down the line all this babr-destryoed-the-temple theory turns out be just a gossip, then mosque should be rebuild. Why waiting for "down the line". Why can't we have the mosque now TILL someone proves the babar-destryoed-the-temple theory?

That's just playing around with your arguments. As I said I don't buy such arguments.

At 4:17 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Aswin said...

Bringing down places of worship with scant regard for people's reactions was probably a common feature in those times. Today, we are a democracy with a constitution which says we are "secular". So there is a huge difference in Babar bringing down a temple and VHP & co. bringing down the mosque. Rejecting this difference is negating whatever progress we have had as a 'civilization' in these years. Please, we can do better than "tit for tat". And i repeat.. a majority community taking this attitude means a grave danger of emotions escalating, which is what has happened.

And as reg X,Y.. i promise you .. if the whole issue is forgotten now and some 500 yrs down the line, somebody cranks it up as the single greatest issue (say buliding of a mosque) before the country, for purely political purposes and to whip up passions.. I am sure muslims will be the first to oppose!..there are/will be greater problems.
I am not equating babar's actions(assuming that a temple was indeed razed..which is itself is a BIG assumption) and VHPs.. but just clarifying my point on the question of how far back in history do you go to make such a great noise...paralysing the country and killing whatever trust that people had between themselves.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger jitendra said...

Aswin: i never justified the razing of the mosque. The mosque has been razed, and it is a sin, a SIN, regardless of which community has been at the receving end.

My only point is, if at all anything has to be rebuild, why mosque? Just because a temple was razed under an undemocratic ruler, when it was a 'fashion' to do such things, make it less of a crime. Why not dig into things, unearth the truth and get something which was there ORIGINALLY (i.e. a temple), and build a masjid at a nearby place as a show of solidarity for the minority community. I repeat, I am not justifying the razing of mosque. But this idea of rebuilding a mosque just because it was razed under a "democratic rule", while totally ignoring the razing of a temple which stood there at the first place, doesnt make sense.

I repeat, a fact is not a fucntion of time. Two equally sinful acts are separated by 100's of years, and thats why you people are concentrating more on the more recent one.

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Krish said...

Just came across your blog. Excellent post. I was like you eight or nine years back. But the arrogance and divisiveness exhibited by the Hindutva forces in the past decade made me an activist against them. I am happy to see that you could convey the same message I want to convey in a non agressive manner. Keep it up.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog name should be changed to 'Aalochana'. Seems like everyone is doing that only. Having an opinion is nice, trying to force it on others is not.
I dont think anyone can pass a judgement on anything here EITHERWAY.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Id it is said...

I remember visiting the Qutab Minar in New Delhi some twelve years ago and my guide pulling out a few loose clay(?) bricks to point out that these bricks were earlier a part of a Hindu monument at the same site which had been demolished by the mughal king who built the Qutab Minar there. I have no idea how reliable this information was. However, it definitely gave me a peek into the seething anger that my Hindu guide carried within him. So when the Babri Masjid demolition happened I couldn't but remember my visit to New Delhi and the words of the guide who said, 'the wheel has to come around', and so it did.

Of course there is no condoning what happened to the Babri masjid, but I'm not so sure that reconstructing the masjid would douse the fanatical fires that rage within the two communities. If at all, it'll only serve to keep 'the wheel' in motion.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Layla said...

Anand, thank you for a fantastic post. I feel much the same but somehow when i attempt to articulate a 'response' to what happened to the babri masjid, or what a blot on democracy like Narender Modi did to Gujarat i feel so very angry that what emerges is not an logical argument unveiling the ugliness of hindutva forces and their diabolical plans for India but an embarrasingly emotional outburst! Should learn from you....! Keep up the analysis please

At 3:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its kinda crazy to read such one sided post. "hindu Fanatics"...please explain, what it means. If it means "Some one who stands by his Hindu Community and religion"...then , please consider me as one. Everyone seem to talk of "babri Masjid demolition"..what about the numerous Temples grounded in recent past? Its just that ,it never makes it to the news? What about Temple demolition in Malasia,CIS countries?,Pakistan,Bangladesh? Infact,there is a huge move to ground a temple in Decca,Bangladesh now(March/21/2007). The demolition is a must as far as Babari Masjid is concerned,but making it a political issue is not necessary.Infact,RSS,VHP ETC are not the only custodians of Hindu Dharma. Infact, they must be disbanded ASAP. They are a ugly ulcer in the Indian Society.VHP,Move them to Jails and Mental asylums,Especially G.Pulla Reddy, Praveen Togadia(nothing personal).They are a shame on mankind.

At 6:32 AM, Blogger imperfect said...

i have a debate in college day after tomoro on the topic
"this house believes demoiltion of babri masjid was justified"
i googled it to get all my facts correct and landed up on ur blog!
excellent job done!

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