Analysis

Ayodhya & Communal Frenzy

Twenty-two years have passed and the issue concerning the demolition of the Babri Masjid still remains unresolved legally as well as politically. Prospects of actual justice being rendered in this matter in the near future remain practically non-existent. At the same time, there is no denying that political parties and leaders, desperate to display their stand against anti-Muslim, extremist, communal parties still mark the demolition’s anniversary with protests and demonstrations demanding justice. With due respect to their stand, would it be fair to assume that making political noise over this issue will actually speed up the judicial process linked with the demolition of Babri Masjid and communal riots that occurred during that period?

Certainly, these demonstrations and similar activities have played the role of reminding the government and rest of the country that justice is still awaited for in this case. These activities have also helped the participants gain substantial media coverage. The last point tempts one to deliberate on the actual motive behind these demonstrations: is it demand for justice or desire for media coverage?

Undeniably, each year since Babri Masjid’s demolition, as its anniversary approaches, a strange tension clouds the atmosphere practically all over the country. There still remains the fear of communal tension over Ayodhya-issue disturbing normal life. It is indeed a strange irony that though Ayodhya-conflict remains unresolved, it has ceased to provoke communal conflict. Nevertheless, as not too long ago, certain parts of Delhi were gripped with communal tension, this year there prevailed the risk of communal panic affecting peace. Besides, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heading the Central government, the tension was greater. After all, veteran leaders associated with this party played a major role in heading a movement leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and spreading communal tension in most parts of the country. This year’s anniversary having passed peacefully conveys a certain message that cannot be sidelined or ignored.

The BJP appears to have finally accepted that howsoever hard its extremist saffron brigade associates try and spread communal venom over religious issues, its impact is least likely to be as severe as it was 22 years ago. Yes, to a degree certain saffron brigade activists have become over-confident that with their political wing in power, they can pursue their communal agenda without any risk. This feeling was perhaps partly responsible for their trying their hand at spreading communal tension in Trilokpuri and other parts of Delhi. Yet, if communal tension clouds the socio-political atmosphere while BJP is in power at the Centre, it can also prove damaging for the political image of this party. At present, BJP probably cannot afford to take this risk.

In 22 years, India and Indians have come a long way from where they were when Babri Masjid was demolished. Around two decades ago, it was not a difficult task for the BJP leader LK Advani to attract crowds of devotees and supporters to his Ram Janambhoomi yatra. That is now history for him and his party members. A major role has been played by several means of communication technology in changing the socio-political attitude of ordinary citizens. These include the television, mobile phone and Internet. Yes, television existed even when Babri Masjid was demolished. However, television programmes were confined to only official Doordarshan channel and that too on a black and white screen. Now, hundreds of channels are available round the clock and that too in full colour. Almost every Indian’s lifestyle is now strongly influenced by one or all of these communication services. Most Indians weren’t even aware of mobile phones and Internet, 22 years ago.

Thanks to television and Internet, it is no longer an easy task for most political leaders to convince people about their goals and agenda. When Babri Masjid was demolished, Indian television services weren’t developed enough to make possible a live telecast of this activity for the Indian audience. Perhaps, if clock is turned backwards to the period when Babri Masjid was not demolished and television services of the present time prevailed then, the Ayodhya-issue may have failed to provoke any communal tension. It may be recalled that when Gujarat-carnage took place, television and other means of media played a major part in updating people constantly about what was happening there. Rather than be provoked to a similar stage of communal frenzy, people exercised caution and wisely refrained from falling victim to any communal conflict. Similarly, though certain miscreants did not refrain from using every possible means to provoke communal tension in Trilokpuri and several parts of Delhi, their attempt failed against wisdom exercised by people. Yes, communal panic was created but it did not lead to any major communal conflict in disturbed areas.

Over the past two decades, communication revolution has played a major role in influencing socio-political attitude of ordinary Indians. Thanks to this change, irrespective of whether demonstrations demanding justice are held each year on 6th December or not, Ayodhya-issue is now devoid of communal fire with which it raged 22 years ago.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2014 on page no. 11

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