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Babri Demolition : How mixing religion and politics led to this controversy

25 years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a look at the events as & when it happened that turned the religious issue into political.

25 years since the demolition and still the issue remains disputed as no consensus conclusion can be reached. Yes, it was on this very day, 6 Dec 1992, that the Babri Masjid was demolished by thousands of Kar Sevaks, claiming that there was a Ram Temple before the Masjid was built by the Mughal emperor Babur, at this very site.

If given a look into the history as to how and when things happened, that led to the current situations, one thing can be observed that what was supposed to be a batt;e of religion, became a battle of politics. With the majority of the population in India being Hindus, the political parties have been on the show, to appease the majority and win the votes. For the political parties, any issued can be changed into a political issue and the parties very well know how to change the course of events for their benefit.

As far as the history of the disputed site goes, in 1526, Babur began to establish the Mughal dynasty in India. Babur’s general Mir Baqi built the Babri Masjid in his honour, but as per the beliefs of the Hindus, he destroyed a temple which stood there to build the Masjid. The place, where the temple was destroyed and the Masjid was built is believed to the place where Lord Ram was born.

The first recorded incident of communal violence at the disputed site was in 1853 when the Nirmohi Akhara of a Hindu sect claimed that a temple had been destroyed during barbu’s reign, in order to build a mosque. Following the violence that broke out after the claim of the Hindu sect, in 1859, the British colonial administration built a fence that demarcated the boundaries of worship for both the Hindus and the Muslims. According to the boundaries set, the inner court was to be used by the Muslims and the outer court by the Hindus.

In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Das took the matter to court, filing a suit before the sub-hudge of Faizabad, seeking permission to construct a temple at the on the Ram Chabutra, which is the outer court, where the Hindus were allowed to worship as per the demarcated boundaries by the British administration. However, that plea was rejected by the Faizabad district court. Things seemed to be dormant for almost five decades since then.

The fire was once again sparked in the matter when in 1949, as the talks were spread that there was a flash of lightning at the Babri Masjid and Lord Ram appeared. The flash of light was of course not a real thing but a fable that became extremely popular giving wind to the beliefs of the Hindus in Ayodhya and the rest of the country. If seen the reality check, the idol of Lord Ram that mysteriously appeared inside the Babri Masjid was no miracle but the plot of few people or say political parties.

Pandit Abhiram Das along with 50-60 people marched into the Masjid late in the night and placed the idol there. As per the statements of Guru Basant Singh, the son of Guru Datta where the planning of placing the idols took place, he said that four district administrators held a meeting late in the night and all were of the opinion that the Ram Temple should be built there.

Following the incident of how Lord Ram himself appeared at the Babri Masjid, thousands of people barged into the mosque in order to get a glimpse of the idol and rendered the mosque as ‘napaak’ or impure. The same was stated in an FIR that was lodged a day after the idol appeared at the Masjid. They raised slogans and sang hymns but all this while the district administration did not move a muscle. The myth that a miracle had taken place inside the Babri Masjid was further fueled, when it became a matter of public record when on 23 Dec 1949, Hawaldar Abdul Barkat had in a statement to the police said that about 2 am there was a flash of lightning after which he saw a beautiful child of about 4-5 years old was inside the Babri Masjid behind its locked gates.

Following these incidents, the government declared the site as disputed and the property was locked and given to a receiver. On 16 January 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad, along with one more person filed two suits in the Faizabad civil court seeking restraint in the removal of the idols. The suit filed pleaded that the right to perform Pooja before the idol be granted and the Ram idol that appeared inside the Babri Masjid be kept there only. Another suit was filed by the Nirmohi Akhara in 1959, and in 1961 the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board filed a suit demanding possession of the site and removal of the idols. The Board argued that the mosque and the surrounding land was a graveyard. The four suits filed between 1950 to 1961, the pleas varied from seeking permission to perform pooja to handing over charge of the entire disputed site.

The placing of the Ram idol inside the Babri Masjid was the spark that actually lit the entire Ram Temple movement and shaped the Indian politics as it is known today.

The matter was slow for almost slow or dropped down for almost two more decades, until in 1982 when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad launched its Ram temple movement and this is the time when the issue actually started talking the political shape. Faced with intense criticism for capitulating to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Muslim hardliners, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was reportedly advised to strike a balance.

Responding to the prevailing situations and the advice given to the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and his chief advisor Arun Nehru in a move to appease the Hindu community persuaded the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister to open the locks of the disputed site and allow for religious rites. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad saw this as a huge victory ramped up their plans.

What can be termed as a mythological political move, was another major reason to turn the religious issue into a true political one. On 1st Feb 1986, Judge KM Pandey saw a monkey holding a flag post at the Faizabad district court. Despite the people offering eatables to the Monkey, he refused to eat any and this was a little strange for Hudge Pandey. After seeing the monkey holding the flag, he then went into the chambers to hear to a petition that wanted the locks of the Babri Masjid to be opened. Two lawyers who were representing the Congress, who was in power both at the centre and the state argued that there will be no law and order situation if the locks were opened. This was regarded as a curious appeal as the Muslims would definitely be unhappy if the Hindus were given unrestricted access to the mosque.

However, Judge Pandey ruled that the Muslims were not going to affect if the locks of the gated were opened and devotees were allowed to worship the idols placed inside. “Heavens will not fall” is what he had said. But obviously, the opposite happened. Following the statement of Judge Pandey, there was nationwide rioting, Delhi, Meerut, Hashimpura, Muradnagar, Maliana, and even Anantnag in Kashmir, where several temples were destroyed in retaliation for Babri. The rioting was the direct result of Judge KM Pandey’s ruling, which he later in his autobiography said was prompted by the divine Monkey.

By the mid-1980’s it had become impossible for the public as well as the politicians to ignore the Ayodhya movement. In 1981, the Dharam Sansad or the religious parliament organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was the very first time that a building a Ram Temple was listed as an objective to preserve the Hindu Dharma. It was followed up by a bike rally organised by the VHP in which thousands of kar sevaks from across the country arrived a took a dip in the Sarayu river, pledging to rebuild the Ram Temple.

Meanwhile, the VHP was on its Ayodhya mission, in Delhi, the Muslim clergy too hit the streets in protest. Another major incident that triggered the issue was when in 1986, the government of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi enacted a law overturning a progressive Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case. The law limited the husband’s obligation to pay maintenance, only for a period of 90 days after divorce according to the provisions of Islamic law. This action of Rajiv Gandhi was highly accused by the BJP for indulging in appeasement politics. This move is widely acknowledged by everyone that set in motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the demolition.

The Babri Masjid and the Ram Janambhoomi took the political turn and reached to the heights of political poly when in 1989 just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP in June 1989, officially adopted the Ram Janambhoomi issue, with the resolution passed at the party’s national executive at Palampur. While on the other hand just days before the general elections, in November 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi government allowed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to perform the laying of the foundation stone for the building of the Ram Temple at the disputed site. Though the High Court had ordered that no construction was permitted on the disputed land, but the VHP was ready to defy the court orders and as a result, the atmosphere was communally charged up.

Following the laying of the Shilanyas, the VHP volunteers in 1990, partially damaged the mosque, following which the incidents gained pace when the attempts at negotiations of the then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar failed.

After the turn of events with the Congress suddenly in favour of the VHP and approving the Shilanayas, what added more fuel was when the then Prime Minister VP Singh based on the Mandal report, for the first time granted  27% reservation to the lower caste Hindus. The Mandal commission report divided the students across the nation, upper caste Hindus and minority students hit the streets in protest. This was not acceptable by the BJP as it was discriminating against their upper caste Hindu vote base.

The BJP needed to change the conversation from the caste and quota to religion and Ram and hence the Rath Yatra was launched from Somnath to Ayodhya, with BJP president Lal Krishna Advani being the charioteer. On 23 Oct 1990, the first time Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, then part of the Janta Dal, arrested Advani in Samastipur, Bihar and kept him in custody for a week. The BJP withdrew its support to the VP Singh government. The country was left politically unstable and communally divided.

Meanwhile, the Kar Sevaks were assembling in Ayodhya in large numbers at the exhortation of the VHP and LK Advani. In order to control the situation, the Mulayam Singh Yadav government had ordered a complete lockdown in Ayodhya and thousands of security officers were deployed. Despite high-security thousands of Kar Sevaks managed to enter the Ayodhya. In the incidents that followed, clashes broke out between the kar sevaks and the police personals and as many as 16 people were killed. This incident got the name of Mullah Mulayam for the then UP Chief Minister.

The BJP reaped electoral benefits of the communally charged atmosphere winning an unprecedented 129 seats in 1991 general elections becoming the main opposition party. BJP also rose as the ruling party on Uttar Pradesh.

The main event happened after that when on Dec 1, 1992, special trains loaded with kar sevaks began to arrive in Ayodhya. Over 2 lakh kar sevaks reached the city and they were given special training as to how to destroy the masjid and tools for demolition were distributed. A dargah of an 18th-century Sufi saint was attacked in the masjid premises on 4 Dec. On 5 Dec LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and several stalwarts of the BJP and the VHP arrive.

Early in the morning on 6 Dec, the kar sevaks began the demolition of the mosque and it took six hours to bring the masjid down. Six hours was the time when the political game was played in the name of religion. The demolition instantly triggered furious riots and more than 2000 people were dead. The was the day that marked the beginning of another rivalry between the Hindus and the Muslims.

Since then the courts, political parties, communal parties everyone has been arguing regarding the disputed site, where once the Ram temple stood which was demolished to build the Babri Masjid, which was later again demolished to rebuild the Ram Mandir.

In 2001 the special Judge dropped the conspiracy charges against 13 accused including LK Advani and Kalyan Singh. Following this, another major riot that the India suffered was in 2002 when 58 people died after a train carrying Hindu kar sevaks from Ayodhya was attacked in Godhra, and more than 2000 people lost their lives due to the Godhra riots. After which the Allahabad High Court began the hearing on the disputed Ayodhya case.

On SSep 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court awarded two-thirds of the Ayodhya site to the Hindu parties and one-third to the Waqf Board. However, the Supreme Court put a stay on the Allahabad High Cout’s verdict on Ayodhya in 2011. In 2017 the Chief Justice JS Khehar suggested that the matter is amicably solved between both the parties by reaching to an settlement outside the court. The SC also restored the criminal conspiracy charges against top BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti.

And as per the latest updates on the Babri Masjid and the Ram Janambhumi dispute, the apex court on 5 Dec has set 8 Feb as the next hearing for the case and it is being speculated that the final verdict of the court will be announced that day. On the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Majid, the Centre asked all states to remain cautious and ensure that there was peace and no incident of communal tension anywhere in the country. Security has also been tightened across Uttar Pradesh.

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