Three hundred and fifty-one witnesses, 600 documents, several video cassettes, and newspaper reports were not enough to get the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case — Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust president Nritya Gopal Das and Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan, among others — convicted.
Symbolism has a high place in politics, especially in India. What happened 28 years ago will decide the course of future actions now. Like they say, in business, earning the first million is the toughest. But once you are there, things become easier — a multiplier effect kicks in. Ayodhya and Babri were the political investments made three decades ago. Now the time has come for the political investors to dip into their interest earnings and make fresh investments — basically go on an expansion drive, inject fresh fuel in the business to keep it going. And since no one demolished Babri, the road to fresh investment — kashi and Mathura — appears clear. From two to 282 to 303 — that’s how it grows.
It gets easier from here
The ending of the Babri Masjid demolition case marks a new beginning — of an ominous plan set by the propagators of Hindutva.
Vinay Katiyar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who was also an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, has stated that the party’s agenda is to remove the Gyanvapi Mosque in Kashi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura. The BJP has found its golden goose — reclaiming temples by breaking mosques — to get the Hindu majority of this nation to keep bringing them back to power on an emotive issue built on the foundation of aastha (faith) and badla (revenge) from the Muslim invaders, who now sit quietly in history books.
The narrative has been carefully woven. The targets chosen subtly follow the hierarchy of Gods in northern India — the dominant electoral landscape of the BJP. The hierarchy is, of course, based on their popularity. Ram, Krishna, Shiva.
If seen in the context of the Supreme Court’s recognition — that the demolition of the mosque was an “egregious violation of the rule of law” — the acquittal of the 32 accused has not only ‘legitimised’ the demolition, but also vindicated a faceless mob that can get away with anything.
1992, a template
The year 1992 did not just witness one of the bloodiest riots (2,000 people were killed) that India had seen since Independence. It was also the year that marked the beginning of instilling a feeling of victimisation within the Hindu community that had been dealt unfairly at the hands of the Muslim minority, first by the Mughals and now by the Congress, which did anything to appease them.
This victim complex, instilled about three decades ago, has now culminated into a superiority complex within a cross-section of the majority community that wants to assert its identity. The 2019 Ayodhya verdict and now the acquittal of all accused in the Babri case have come as fuel for this project. For Hindutva, the symbol of assertion is the demolition of mosques and “reclaiming” of temples. But it has just one faith — power.
Krishna after Ram
A PIL filed on behalf of child deity Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman has asked for the removal of the Shahi Idgah Masjid at Mathura, claiming that the mosque is built at the birthplace of lord Krishna. In 1989, a civil suit was filed on behalf of Ram Lalla Virajman. We all know what happened after that.
The free pass to repeat an Ayodhya, now that all those accused in the Babri demolition case have been acquitted, seems likely. In August, an FIR was registered against Acharya Dev Murari Bapu, the national chairman of Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Nirman Nyas — an organisation recently set up — for making communal and inflammatory speeches. According to a senior police officer, Bapu had said, “the mosque adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi will be razed and the Janmabhoomi site will be extended into the area”.
This looks like a recap of 1992. Back then, when the Babri Masjid was brought down, the government had deployed policemen in large numbers at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to prevent a repeat of Ayodhya. Today, the mosque comes under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 — a legislation prohibiting the conversion of any place of worship. The writing is clear, for those who want to see, on the wall. The infamous slogan of the BJP— ‘Ayodhya toh bas jhaanki hai, Kashi, Mathura baaki hai (Ayodhya is just a preview, Kashi and Mathura are next)’— reverberates even today.
Babar then, Aurangzeb now
Temples and mosques are mere symbols. They are all part of a grand effort to undermine India’s Islamic history. A recent newspaper advertisement of the tourism department of Uttar Pradesh on the occasion of World Tourism Day holds a small evidence of this grand effort. The advert listed 20 ‘must see’ places in the state. It mentioned Hindu and Buddhist sites but left out the Taj Mahal, the monument which generated over $13 million in revenues in 2018-19 and sees over six million tourists on an average every year. When Yogi Adityanath took over as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, he conspicuously dropped the Taj from the 2017 official tourism booklet.
If it was Babur then, it is the much-hated Aurangzeb now. The motive is clear. Monuments that remind the presence of Muslims ruling India must be destroyed. The message is also larger — demonisation of the Muslims. You can call them terrorists, anti-nationals, invaders or infiltrators, Islam and Indians are being seen incongruent to each other.
Although the Mughals cannot be equated with the Muslims of today, the PIL on the Krishna janmabhoomi shows how the two are inevitably considered the same. The litigation alleged “that it is matter of fact and history that Aurangzeb ruled over the country from 31.07.1658 to 3.03.1707 AD and he being staunch follower of Islam had issued orders for demolition of large number of Hindu religious places and temples including the temple standing at the birth place of Lord Shree Krishna at Katra Keshav Dev, Mathura in the year 1669-70 AD.” The expression “staunch followers of Islam” speaks much about the psyche of those who are looking to reclaim the temples.
Kashi and Mathura will inevitably turn into a replay of the Ayodhya playbook. What remains to be seen is if this assertion succeeds to completely destroy the pluralism of India.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.