On the 26th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, Kavita Devi paints a picture of the Ayodhya view from Banda, in the run-up to and aftermath of the Dharam Sabha held on 25 November.
Banda: The issue of the Ram Mandir is echoing across the country. Wherever you turn, you hear slogans of Jai shree Ram, and talks supporting the building of the temple. I was passing by Babulal Chauraha in Banda on 23 November, it must have been around 8 in the evening, and I saw dozens of buses, decorated in saffron, adorned by flags, and with placards saying Ayodhya chalo pasted on the windshields . I stopped to see buses after buses getting overflowed with people, slogans ringing in the air. I asked someone, "Where are you going?" In response, I got an impassioned, rather rabid, "Can’t you see? We’re going to Ayodhya, to support the construction of the Ram Mandir."
The preparations for the dharam sabha that the RSS and VHP had organised in Ayodhya on 25 November, in support of the Ram Mandir construction, went on for a month in Bundelkhand and other parts of Uttar Pradesh. Thousands across the region were mobilised and encouraged to join. Muslims in the Ayodhya area watched, fearfully, as these hordes of passionate Hindus descended on their town, raising slogans.
For the first time, in these many years of having reported in Faizabad, we saw Muslim women clad in burkhas amongst the crowd, supporting the construction of the temple. It was this fact that somehow I couldn’t stomach. The Muslim community was wronged, and has been fearful since 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished. It led to riots, and the demands for a temple rang across the country, beginning a long legal battle that is about to come to a head. The fact that news reports made such a big deal about the Muslim community also supporting the construction of the temple really bothered me. You can’t tell from someone’s face if they are Hindu or Muslim; you can easily ask anyone to wear a burkha. I could pretend to be Shabnam in another place too.
But the truth is, the Muslim community of Ayodhya is scared. And why wouldn’t they be — with the hordes, the passion, and the slogans? Crowds were pouring out on the fields and narrow streets like they owned it. It felt like something was definitely going to happen — I don’t want to use the word 'riot', but the atmosphere was loaded, and people definitely felt it. People were storing food away for days and months to come, in case what they feared came to be.
Why aren’t people talking about this fear, this atmosphere of terror?
When we spoke to experts, whether the temple would be constructed or not, or whether this could take the form of a riot, they responded saying that it wouldn’t, it was too important an election issue for the Bharatiya Janta Party to resolve and be done with.
I don’t really think there should be a temple or masjid in this spot. Why can’t there be a university or a hospital or a bus stop even? Why can’t people see that it would be better if there was something that benefitted all communities? If the Ram Mandir is built, will we have a safer country for women? Will we ensure no one goes hungry? Aren’t these the real questions facing Uttar Pradesh, and our country at the moment?
Forget blaming the government or politics, maybe, we need to look within ourselves for a moment. Each of us needs to reflect individually, not on behalf of our community or our family.
What is the benefit each of us stands to gain if a Ram Mandir is constructed?
Think about it.
The author is the Digital Head at Khabar Lahariya, a women-only network of rural reporters from Bundelkhand.
Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 17:01 PM