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EDITORIAL: 1-15 January 2001
The many faces of Sangh Parivar
Having made it to the corridors of power, discovering what is responsible behavior, and realizing that a government works for all the citizens of a country, it was expected of the BJP to become sober and wiser. Indeed Prime Minister Vajpayee’s ability to keep the NDA intact had won over many a skeptic and prodded many to believe that Vajpayee and company have graduated from the ranks of politicians and rabble-rousers to statesmen. But all this was shattered by two recent utterances of the prime minister: his Staten Island declaration, on foreign land, that he is a swayamsewak and will always be one, and now, on the eighth anniversary of the Babri martyrdom, he out of the blue claimed that the demolition of a four centuries-old place of worship was an expression of ‘national sentiment’ and that this agenda remains ‘unfinished.’ Two things are clear from this statement: only ‘Hindu’ sentiments are ‘national’ and that contrary to all pronouncements on various levels during the last three years, the BJP remains committed to the Mandir agenda which seeks to build yet another ‘Ram Temple’ in a town which already boasts of so many ‘authentic’ Ram temples if sadhus are to be believed.
Some of the important Babri issues and recent developments in parliament and outside have been covered in this issue and these need not be repeated here. What we would like to highlight here is the proliferation of theories about what happened on that fateful day which shall remain a black day for all time to come and an albatross around the necks of people whose only diet is hate.
Our memories are not short. ‘Hindus’ first demanded a portion of the original Babri mosque early in 1850s under British influence who wanted to sow discord in Awadh in order to usurp the best parts of India then being governed by their ally, Nawwab Wajid Ali Shah. The Nawwab conceded to their demands and awarded them part of the mosque’s courtyard to construct a raised platform for puja. This was accomplished by killing hundreds of Muslims who were against this concession. Under British rule ‘Hindus’ continued demanding the whole mosque and a Hindu judge threw out their case. All this while Muslims of Ayodhya continued to pray at the mosque but this was increasingly made difficult by pelting stones at the worshippers throughout the thirties and fourties. After independence, the peace-loving lot surreptitiously placed idols inside the mosque under cover of darkness and one fine morning in December 1949 announced that Bhagwan Ram has appeared in the mosque and thus the mosque was taken over with the blessings of the local and state administrations which appointed a pandit who started organizing prayers inside the mosque. Now several cases were filed by the police and Muslims to recover the property. Litigation continued at a snail’s pace according to the legal practice in the country until the BJP got wind of this issue and brought it to the streets and Mr Advani, the prime minister-apparent started crisscrossing the country in his chariots. With the blessings of the successive Congress governments the doors were opened for darshan, shilanyas was allowed despite court orders and finally the mosque was allowed to be razed under the watchful eyes of the army and police while the then prime minister enjoyed his siesta.
Every person in the Hindutva brigade, big and small claimed his responsibility for the Masjid demolition. Even a big list of demolishers was published in the saffronites’ Hindi mouthpiece, Panchjanya. For the first month after demolition there was a festive atmosphere all over the workplaces, streets, trains and buses, sweets were being distributed and exchanged, and Muslims were being taunted that the only place for them was to go to qabristan or Pakistan.. This is not history: We have seen it with out own eyes. All this changed after the unfortunate serial bomb blasts as wisdom dawned on the crooked minds that if you harm someone he will fight back. As Maulana Rumi has said, cornered even a cat attacks a lion. Thereafter the case again went to courts and a commission of enquiry was set up willy nilly to satisfy the legal niceties. Soon stories started to change. First the big culprits claimed in front of the courts that they are not responsible in any way for the demolition. One of them, now an MP, claimed that the ISI demolished the mosque. The new theory is that they were in fact trying to protect the mosque. The latest theories are that indeed a Muslim called Anis Ahmad Gehlot, blasted the mosque. Yet another theory in the latest issue of the saffronites’ English mouthpiece claims that Sharad Pawar, then defence minister, supervised the demolition job...! All these and many more theories are produced within eight years of an event witnessed by the whole world. Yet the saffronites are dead sure that it it was a king called Babar who demolished the temple of their lord Rama and built a mosque there although respected historians and archeologists dispute their theories and say that nothing for sure can be said about the myth of Rama let alone his birth place at a specific spot.