The demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 was not an isolated event. It was the culmination of a long build-up process. BJP leader LK Advani’s rath yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh between 25 September and 30 October 1990 had left many parts of the country communally polarised. Given the intense heat generated by the Hindutva outfits across the country over the Rama Janmabhoomi issue subsequently, an explosion of emotions was expected.
It happened in the form of the demolition of Babri Masjid, which, according to the claims of the Hindutva outfits, stood on the birthsite of Lord Ram. Communal riots followed the incident which claimed more than 2000 lives. In hindsight, 20 years down the line, nothing much has changed regarding the status of the site. The communal heat has dissipated long since and the BJP is no more even the favoured political party of Hindus in Faizabad, the district in which Ayodhya is located.
What remains now are court cases. The CBI refuses to let Advani and other senior Sangh Parivar leaders, including Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray, Vinay Katiyar, Kalyan Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi among others, off the hook. There are cases against the kar sevak who carried out the demolition, too. The leaders have been charged with conspiracy to bring down the structure and making inflammatory speeches to provoke the kar sevaks into the rash action.
“Before the demolition started and during the course of demolition, various accused persons including the eight named in the FIR of crime no. 198/92 (Advani and others), made provocative slogans from the manch causing the assembly to turn unlawful resulting in rioting and storming of the structure by the kar sevaks…As and when the domes fell, the accused leaders and others on the manch celebrated the same by clapping, hugging each other and distributed sweets on the manch which was at a visible distance of 175 metres from the disputed structure,’’ says the CBI’s affidavit in the Supreme Court, challenging an Allahabad High Court order.
On 20 May 2010, the Allahabad High Court had upheld the order of a special court dropping the conspiracy charge against Advani and others. The high court had also dismissed a revision petition by the CBI. There’s little hope that the fate of the case will be any better in the apex court, from the CBI’s perspective.
The whole process appears unnecessary now, given the delay. The case ignores the basic fact that the demolition was the end result of a prolonged action. The backstory is stronger in the Babri Masjid demolition case than the act of demolition itself. Had there not been sustained effort at building a communal polarisation through hate speeches, Hindu jingoism and Muslim bashing, things would not have come to such a pass. If punishment is due, it should be for creating a charged, destructive ambience like this.
Advani and others owe the nation an explanation, like the Congress does for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Advani for all practical purposes has forgotten about the ‘great cause’ he espoused so passionately in 1990 and thereabouts. His party pays only lip service to it. So was the big mobilisation worth it? Worse, did it aim at political gains only?
The BJP has been punished for the demolition. It has not grown politically as fast as it would have liked because it lost the trust of people after the incident. People felt manipulated and duped by the party.
Court cases are alright but can we have a system in place that would prevent the huge mobilisation of people on emotive issues?