Mumbai: In a tug-of-war over whose Hindutva is more genuine, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are targeting the Shiv Sena’s long-standing contention that its members brought down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
In the last week, BJP Opposition leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and MNS MLA Raju Patil have openly slammed the Shiv Sena for taking credit for bringing down the Babri Masjid in 1992.
Speaking at a rally in Mumbai Sunday, Fadnavis said he was there at the spot when the structure was brought down and alleged that “there was not a single Shiv Sena leader in sight”.
Similarly, Patil, who is the MNS MLA from Kalyan Rural, in a tweet last week, quoted a Bajrang Dal functionary saying there was no Shiv Sena member present when the Babri Masjid was demolished.
The Shiv Sena has always maintained that its members were responsible for bringing down the Babri Masjid.
On the day of the bhoomipujan (groundbreaking) ceremony for the Ram Mandir in August 2020, for which no Shiv Sena leader was on the invitee list, the party ran a social media campaign with the hashtag “Dhanyawad Balasaheb (Thank you, Balasaheb)”, a reference to Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
In the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena leadership also published an editorial quoting Bal Thackeray right at the top, saying, “Babri padli ti padnarya Shiv Sainikancha mala abhimaan ahe (I am proud of the Shiv Sainiks who demolished the Babri).”
Shiv Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray most recently invoked the role of his party in bringing down the Babri while speaking at a project inauguration in Mumbai last Monday. CM Thackeray also taunted the BJP, claiming that its party members had crawled into a hole during the Babri Masjid demolition.
The Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the MNS have been in a contest, which has intensified over the past month, to demonstrate their Hindutva credentials.
‘Our only fault was that we didn’t take credit’
Speaking at the BJP’s rally in Mumbai Sunday, Fadnavis said those who are “scared” to remove loudspeakers from mosques are trying to take credit for bringing down the Babri.
“I, Devendra Fadnavis, was there to bring the structure down. And… before that, I spent 18 days in jails while on the kar seva (service) to [campaign] for a Ram temple there,” Fadnavis said.
He added: “Which Maharashtra leader was there when the Babri fell? Not a single Shiv Sena leader was present there, not a single one. After the Babri fell, there were 32 accused. In these 32 accused, I can’t see a single one of your leaders from Maharashtra.”
Fadnavis further claimed that the BJP’s only fault was that it did not seek publicity or violate discipline. According to him, once the mosque was brought down, the BJP and its allied organisations like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) decided jointly to not seek credit for the Babri’s demolition.
“It was decided that those who did it were all Ram sevaks, kar sevaks… and you (Shiv Sena) are now sitting next to those who opposed Ram and questioned if Ram had really lived,” Fadnavis said in a veiled taunt at the Shiv Sena’s alliance with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government in Maharashtra.
MNS MLA Patil indirectly lashed out at the Shiv Sena last week by tweeting a quote attributed to Shankar Gaikar, Mumbai president of the Bajrang Dal, which said, in Marathi: “I had climbed the Babri Masjid with my people and we demolished the structure. If it is proved that there was a Shiv Sainik there, I am ready to sacrifice my life for them.”
"बाबरी मशिदीवर मी माझ्या लोकांसोबत चढलो होतो आणि ढाचा आम्ही पाडला.तिथं एकतरी शिवसैनिक होता असं सिद्ध झालं तर मी माझं आयुष्य त्यांना अर्पण करायला तयार आहे." – बजरंग दलाचे मुंबई प्रमुख श्री.शंकर गायकर.
( आयत्या पीठावर रेघोट्या मारणाऱ्यांच्या माहितीसाठी ! )
— Raju Patil ( प्रमोद (राजू) रतन पाटील ) (@rajupatilmanase) April 25, 2022
To the Gaikar quote, Patil added: “Aytya pithavar regotya marnaryancha mahiti sathi (This is for the information of those who draw their lines on ready flour)” — a potshot at those said to be taking undue credit for others’ work.
‘Many documents to show Shiv Sena’s involvement’
Shiv Sena MLC Manisha Kayande told ThePrint that there are many documents and newspaper cuttings showing that several Shiv Sena members were present at the Babri site, while others were held in preventive custody by the police.
Referring to the BJP, Kayande said, “Those who are claiming credit for demolishing the Babri Masjid now, earlier took a stand in front of inquiry commissions that they did not have anything to do with it. So, why are they claiming credit now?”
She added that, as far as the MNS were concerned, a number of their leaders were Shiv Sena members at the time the Babri masjid was demolished. The MNS was formed in 2006.
This report has been updated to correct a typo in Devendra Fadnavis’ quote. He said he spent 18 days in jail, not years. The error is regretted.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)