I vividly remember that Sunday afternoon when I was loitering in the neighborhood along with other children. We were school students then and apart from cricket the other topic of our passionate discussion was the ongoing agitation at Ayodhya. A few minutes into our discussion, we saw a hefty man running towards us. He was panting. Tears were rolling down his cheeks as he repeatedly yelled “Jai Shri Ram”. Before we could react, several others in our locality had joined in and roared back “Jai Shri Ram”. Within minutes almost everybody, including me and my friends, were chanting “Jai Shri Ram” in unison.
This day was 6th December, 1992.
The Babri Structure (that looked like a Mosque) at Ayodhya had been demolished and news spread like wild fire. Conch shells were blowing, sweets were distributed, diyas and candles were being lighted all around.
This was the scene and extent of celebrations at a small colony in Kanpur an industrial town some 220 kilometers from Ayodhya. Remember this was 1992– a different era with no Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. Mobile phones were super luxury and 24×7 television news was nowhere. The only mode of communication was landline phones and word of mouth. Yet, news of the demolition of Babri Structure spread like wild fire and instigated hysterical celebrations all across the country. Post the demolition of Babri Structure a few political commentators and historians began calling this structure a Masjid and said that Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6th , 1992. But this Structure was never a Masjid (Mosque). Islam never permits demolishing one religious structure (be it a temple, church or synagogue) to construct a mosque.
In fact, many historians and commentators like to describe the history of post-independence India as pre-1992 and post-1992. Such was the impact of Ram Janmabhoomi Movement on the lives of Indians. This impact has only grown over time.
In recent years during my interaction with journalists and political observers, especially from the West, one question almost recurs: “How could a political party (read BJP) whip up mass frenzy on a scale that remains almost unparalleled in post-independence India”?
Well, first things first. The Ram Janmabhoomi Movement was never the brain child of one political party or any of its offshoot. So neither the BJP nor its ideological mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) or the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) can claim sole ownership rights of the Ayodhya movement. None of the people in my colony who were celebrating the demolition of Babri Structure were members of the BJP or VHP or the RSS.
Let’s go back in history to put things into a perspective.
Mughal invader Babur’s commander-in-chief Mir Baki demolished the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in 1528. The psyche behind temple’s demolition was to prove to the indigenous Hindu population that world order has changed and Babur is the new ruler who is here to take possession of the country, its people, women and their God. Since Ram is an integral part of India’ psyche so demolition of his temple at his birthplace would send a powerful message to the locals, went the thought in the minds of invading army. Yes, Babur did demolish the temple but faced stiff resistance from the then local population to an extent that he was unable to build a grand mosque in its place. It was a hurriedly built “Structure” that resembled a mosque; the minarets, place for ablutions and other essential structures of a mosque were starkly absent. The Mughal invaders paid no heed to the basic Islamic tenet that a temple cannot be demolished to construct a Mosque.
During Babur’s short rein of four years the then local people fought four battles to regain control of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. The very fact that Babur was unable to build a grand mosque even after being the victor speaks volumes about the resistance he faced from the then Hindu population. And then these fights never stopped. Till 1934 Hindus fought a total of seventy six battles to regain control of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Be it the rein of Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan or the brutal Aurangzeb at no time did the Hindu population stop battling to re-gain control of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Since the year 1934, and thereafter India’s independence in 1947, this fight shifted to the court rooms. So, while earlier the battles were bloody and violent with time it has now become judicial.
For people of India, a temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya is not merely an issue of bricks and mortar. It is an issue of our cultural resurgence and identity, where Lord Ram has a prime place of importance. The movement is an expression of the collective consciousness of the our ethos, our national honor and dignity.
Any interpretation of the Babri Structure, other than that of it being viewed as a monument which celebrates our slavery will clearly indicate that Hindus and all Indians are being asked to live with the feeling of humiliation that Babur wanted to inflict upon us as “conquered people”.
Now where does this leave the country’s Muslim population? Since it was never a mosque the Babri Structure was never a holy place for Muslims and there is absolutely no need for them to own up the barbarism of Babur and others like him. A little bit of historical research proves that present day Indian Muslims are converts from Hinduism and it is their forefathers who died fighting the marauding army of the likes of Babur. Later on, their families were forced to convert to Islam by the invading Mughal army. The right way for Indian Muslims is to distance themselves from such acts of vandalism and barbarism of the past.
In 1857, the year when India fought its first war of independence against British colonialism, Amir Ali the local Muslim leader from Ayodhya announced that Muslims must hand over the Babri Structure to their Hindu brethren. Unfortunately, rebels lost the 1857 war and British army hanged Amir Ali and his associate leader Ramcharan Das from a tamarind tree on March 18, 1858. For several years this tamarind tree was worshiped by both Hindus and the Muslims. The developing camaraderie between Hindus and Muslims worried British colonial rulers. Soon they uprooted the tamarind tree that was turning into a rallying point for the indigenous population. Sadly, this portion of history is skipped in present day narrative.
Elsewhere also there has been several precedents of such acts. When the Germans are asked to apologize for the crimes of Hitler, they never hesitate to do so, clearly indicating that they do not own Nazism.
In 1918 in Warsaw, at the end of first Russian occupation of Poland, one of the first things that Polish people did was to bring down the Russian Orthodox Christian Cathedral that was built by Russians in the center of the town. This was done despite the fact that Poles are Christians and Jesus Christ was worshiped in that Cathedral. The Poles demolished the Cathedral built by Russians only because they viewed the Cathedral not as a place of worship, rather as a structure that reminded them of their slavery.
The Babri Structure was a similar construction that reminded India of the savagery and so its demolition was celebrated all across the country. A grand temple at the birth place of Lord Ram will instill a sense of pride for Indians in their rich cultural heritage and correct the historical wrong.