Mainstream, VOL LV No 20 New Delhi May 6, 2017
Conspiracy behind the Babri Demolition
Monday 8 May 2017
by Ram Puniyani
After a long wait, the Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Khehar opined that the long pending dispute of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid should be settled out of court. (March 2017) He even offered to mediate himself in the matter. Uniformly most of the spokespersons from the RSS combine welcomed the move, while a large number of Muslims and other elements have been surprised as the Court was approached for justice and not for any compromise formula.
This is in the backdrop of the judgment of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad Court (2010). As per this judgment, the three-judge Bench had said that the land should be divided into three parts. As such the judgment was an exercise of sorts trying to do a balancing act between all the parties involved, the Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhada and Sunni Wakf Board. The title of the land has been divided into three; each sharing one part. Also the Court had declared that since Hindus believe that the ‘birthplace’ of Lord Ram to be below the place where the central dome of the mosque stood, that place should be allotted to the Hindus. In response the RSS chief, in a jubilant mood, had proclaimed that now the path for a grand Ram temple had been opened at the site and all the parties should cooperate in this “national” work.
For larger sections, this judgment came as a matter of dismay. The Babri mosque had been there for the last nearly five hundred years and it was in possession of the Sunni Waqf Board. The dispute was created in the nineteenth century. In 1885 even the Court denied Hindus to build a shed on the platform outside the mosque. It is after the forcible installation of Ram Lalla idols (1949) that matters went in an adverse way. Through a conspiracy the idols were installed and, despite the insistence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, the UP administration did not comply. The gates of the Masjid were sealed. It was in 1986 that Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, got the doors of the Masjid opened under the intense pressure of the Hindu Right-wing forces.
Lal Krishna Advani took up the issue from the VHP, which was agitating for the Ram temple so far. With Advani, the President of the BJP, taking up the issue, its political impact started deepening and widening at the same time. It was made the major polarising issue around which the consolidation of the Hindu vote-bank began. The mobilisation for the rath yatra planned for the temple movement became much more in the aftermath of the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations. Those who opposed reservation for the OBCs came forward in large numbers in the mobilisation for the Ram temple.
While the BJP did not show direct opposition to the Mandal Commission, it converted the opposition into the Ram temple issue. Mandal versus Kamandal (Holy water pot, Religiosity), is how some framed it.
This issue came up to torment the delicate thread of peace prevailing in the society. The culmination of this campaign was in the form of demolition of the Babri Masjid. In the demolition the RSS combine mobilised a large section of the people and Narasimha Rao colluded. While the local administration collapsed, Kalyan Singh of the BJP, who was the then Chief Minister of UP, facilitated the assembly of kar sevaks, who were to demolish the mosque. He did this despite his promise to the Supreme Court that he will protect the mosque. Narasimha Rao, who locked himself in his puja room as the mosque was being demolished, later promised that it will be rebuilt precisely at the same spot.
Matters took a turn for the worse as the BJP led a team of ‘archeologists—kar sevaks’ who tried to prove that there were remnants of the Ram temple below the mosque. Archeologically this is not tenable. That there was no convincing proof of a Ram temple underneath becomes clear from the fact that the High Court Bench had to resort to ‘faith of Hindus’ to allot two-thirds of the land to the Hindu groups. The demolition of the mosque might have been the biggest crime in India and that was well planned. Despite that, the leaders of the demolition squad have not been punished so far.
The Liberhan Commission did point to the nature of the underlying conspiracy but unfortu-nately the Commission took too long to submit its report. To add salt to the injury Advani and company became stronger after this crime against the nation. The demolition also unleashed massive violence against Muslims, particularly in Mumbai, Bhopal and Surat along with other places. The guilty of this violence have also been let off totally or with minor reprimand.
In the matter of this dispute, the ownership of the title has been the real issue. The High Court based itself more on ‘faith’ than the records of ownership of the land. The Supreme Court, as the highest legal body, needs to see the total issue from the legal angle and must set right the wrongs done so far. Only concrete legal aspects should determine the outcome of the case. Instead, to call for a compromise out of Court in the present circumstances is overlooking the aspect of justice. In the out-of-Court settlement already the Hindu groups have said that Muslims should leave the place for the Ram temple and another suitable land will be given to them for the mosque. The two sides are not evenly balanced as far as their strength at the negotiating table is concerned.
There are threats from the likes of Subramanian Swami, the BJP MP, and others that if the Muslims don’t give up their claim, a Bill will be brought through Parliament once the BJP has greater strength. Threats of this type are immoral. Already there are claims on so many mosques to convert them into temples! In the out-of-Court settlement, the Hindu nationalists are more assertive and dominant while the representatives of Muslims are being pushed into a corner that does not augur well for the health of our democracy. Efforts to revive the issues of other mosques are unwarranted and intimidating to minorities. Those need to be stopped.
The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.