Why Shouldn’t We Forget the Babri Masjid Movement

Late Syed Shahabuddin, IFS, the Indian politician and diplomat shall always be remembered for his strident and unfaltering intonation for the Babri Masjid Movement. No other representative of Muslim Indians has been able to garner a stance as broad, significant, and germane as his in the Movement ever since the dispute ensued. It may not be an exaggeration to say that he was THE FACE of the Babri Masjid Movement both before and after its demolition. Now, looking at the High Court of Allahabad decision in September 2010, many within the Community might have perceived a despondent end to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi dispute. However, the way the Indian political spectacle is unfolding, this does not seem so. This is also more than evident from the fact that the Supreme Court is gearing up to initiate a fresh hearing on this dispute from December 05, 2017. This is precisely why we desperately need to reorganize the magnitude first, of not forgetting the Babri Masjid carnage, and second, of having an ascendant voice (somewhat parallel to Late Syed Shahabuddin) to support and mentor the Babri Masjid Movement.

Congress's gift to Indian Muslims

The parameters that make the Babri Masjid Movement significant for the Muslim Indian Community are many. The Babri Masjid dispute and the demolition of Babri Masjid was a symbol of triumph of a bigoted force over a law-abiding force. It is evident that abiding by the government directives, no Muslim offered prayers in Babri Masjid ever since the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened and prayers and puja was allowed for the Hindus on the Babri Masjid campus. On the contrary, even before the Courts of the country could pronounce a decision on the dispute, the structure was forcibly pulled down and demolished, which signals a big mistrust and contempt of the nation’s Judiciary. That such a force exists in a country like India is itself a disturbing thought. And it is devastating and annihilating to observe that the same bigoted force can today lead the nation towards an unprecedented religious polarization – a force so strong that it can lead a secular, responsive democracy towards mobocracy and jingoist nationalism stripped off national unity.

This jingoist overturn and mockery of the Judiciary still continues today. Even before the Supreme Court takes up the final hearing of the dispute, the RSS chief has declared thatno structure other than a Ram Temple will be built at the disputed site.” In a similar distortion of the status quo, Syed Waseem Rizvi, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board, “presented before the Supreme Court on November 18 — forgoing its rights on the disputed land in Ayodhya, which it said should be given to Hindus to build a Ram temple and a mosque be constructed in Lucknow.” It is interesting to note that though the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board claims to be the mutawalli (caretaker) of the Babri Masjid, its claim to be a party to the disputed Babri Masjid Ram Janbhoomi site had been revoked by the Faizabad Civil Judge in 1945. The Faizabad Civil Judge had then concluded that “there was evidence that the mosque had been used by both sects and, in any event, mere use of the mosque by Shias would not convert it into a Shia Waqf property.” In simple terms, the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board never had a legal bearing in the dispute, and this judgement was never contested by the Shia Waqf Board later. Therefore, Nazim Pasha, in his article on dailyO, rightly claims that the Shai Waqf Board is now playing politics to attune to its own vested interests – quite possibly at the behest of the same forces that want to continue igniting feud in the dispute.

The adversaries of the Babri Masjid Movement are bellying with all their precision to ensure that we forget and unilaterally compromise on the issue. The adversaries’ only wish is to build a Ram Temple at the disputed site, with or without any verdict from the Judiciary. At the same time, Muslim Indians have always been proclaiming to accept the Judicial verdict, even if it is against their interest. It would be significant to mention some new blitzkrieg unleashed by the Saffron Brigade in this respect.

An ambience is deceptively being created to portray that the Muslims have forgone their claim over the disputed site and are not against the construction of the Ram Temple at the disputed site, as already exemplified earlier by the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board’s claims. A similar disarray has been created by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living founder, who has offered to help mediate an out of court settlement on this issue. As maintained by The Indian Express, he observes that “by and large, Muslims are not opposing the Ram Temple.” It is interesting to note that this observation by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not supplemented by any logical data and appears nothing less than his own wishful thinking. In fact, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is not even a neutral figure to be acknowledged as an intermediary as far as this dispute is concerned, and is known to have close links with the Saffron Brigade. In such a situation, how and why should he act as an intermediary for the disputing parties at the first place is itself beyond any cognitive or logical comprehension. It is interesting to note that “both the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Muslim Personal Law Board has rejected Sri Sri Ravi Shankar'soffer to mediate on the issue.

In another turn of events, India Today recently claimed to have uneartheda secret deal; “an allegation by the chief of the Nirmohi Akhada” against the head of the Sunni Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh that “he (Sunni Waqf Board chief) has accepted or is ready to accept money in return for backing off from the disputed site” and agreeing to concede the disputed site to build the Ram Temple. To substantiate this expose, India Today interviews the chief of the Nirmohi Akhada where he is seen making this claim right in the front frame of the camera. The entire episode seems precariously staged – the video of the chief of Nirmohi Akhada is shown in the front camera frame, signifying that he knows he is being filmed and it is not an undercover or a sting operation (so, where is the secrecy of this claim/deal?). Why would the chief of Nirmohi Akhada make such a dubious claim in front of a national media house is also quite questionable.

It is evident that the so-called expose has been broadcast to create misunderstanding and confusion and build an opinion that the Muslims and their representatives are ready to forgo their claim over the Babri Masjid site for some amount of money (20 crores, to be precise). To believe that the Sunni Waqf Board chief is ready to accept a meagre sum of 20 crores in return for backing off from the disputed site is not only illogical but also ridiculous to its core. Can Muslim Indian claim to the Babri Masjid dispute be really brought off with a meagre 20 crores bribe, and is the Sunni Waqf Board so obtuse not to understand this and accept the offer? On the other hand, this also ensures that a situation of mistrust is built for the Sunni Waqf Board among the Muslim Community. No representative of the Sunni Waqf Board is presented to vindicate the claim made by the Nirmohi Akhada chief. However, Hasibul Hasan, General Secretary of the Sunni Ulema Board, a totally different organization that has no legal bearing on the issue of the Babri Masjid dispute, is interviewed to try to balance out the expose – though Hasibul Hasan doesn’t say anything about “this secret deal”; he only talks about accepting the Supreme Court judgement, whatever it may be. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board must file a defamation lawsuit against this drive, which has all the parameters and possibilities to disrupt and sabotage an actually beneficent out-of-court settlement process. 

Some of the future implications of the Babri Masjid Ramjanam Bhoomi dispute are precariously alarming, not just for the Muslim Indians but also for the secular fabric of the country. The amplification of the dispute ever since the locks of the Masjid were opened by the then Rajeev Gandhi government, up until its demolition on December 06, 1992, was a prelude to the religious polarization of the country that we witness today. If religious hatred has overcome the Indian polity today, it owes its origin to the religious bigotry and treacherous galvanization of Indian secularism by the Saffron Brigade that was allowed to flourish during the 1990s, right under the nose of the Congress. We now stand at a crossroad where the Babri Masjid episode will be instrumental in not just learning lessons from the past but also for making a headway in future to preserve our identity as Muslim Indians in a secular India. Whether or not the present-day Muslim Indian leadership [if at all there is any] will understand this implication and try to steer the nation and the Muslim Indian Community out of this crisis is a big question.

Babri Masjid was a symbol of religious freedom in a democratic, secular India. With its demolition, instances of demolition of Masajid (plural of Masjid) across the length and breadth of India has become common, specifically in Muslim minority areas. Constructing a new Masjid is now an uphill task – even making a temporary make-shift arrangement for prayers for Muslims on a land owned by an individual may attract disruption, demolition, and punitive actions just because some locals may object to it (the recent case of Sonia Vihar in Delhi).

Babri Masjid was also a symbol of ancestral pride for India, much like the Red Fort, Qutab Minar, or Taj Mahal, not just a religious mark. The attempts to distort and erode Medieval Indian history (specifically the Mughals), as evidenced by the recent controversy over Taj Mahal, have made it apparent that the adversaries are not concerned merely with deflating and dampening our outward identity by lynching and killing, but rather purging any probabilities for our future generations to hinge onto our resplendent historical edifice. This has all possibilities to lead to an automated extermination of our existence and religious milieu altogether, just as it happened in Spain years back. To exemplify, an emboldened stake in the Babri Masjid site has led to an even bolder claim over Taj Mahal; and it may not just stop there.

The Babri Masjid Movement that was so impressively carted by late Syed Shahabuddin is now in dire need of a Muslim representation that parallels him. More so because the symbolism of Babri Masjid goes beyond a disputed religious site. It did not end with the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It shall not end, in sha Allah, with any turn of events in future. [This does not mean in any way that the Movement is pitted against any Court decision. We Muslim Indians have always upheld the rule of law and conformed to the Judiciary – both before and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid – and we shall always abide by the Supreme Court’s decision.] It is therefore, paramount that we shouldn’t forget Babri Masjid. If today we forget the Babri Masjid Movement, we relinquish the ancestral pride for India, we abandon the rule of law, we forgo the freedom of religion, and we forsake democracy. In turn, we fail the spirit of India founded by Gandhi, Nehru, and Azad.

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