Saturday, Aug 13, 2022

Before Gyanvapi Row, An Untold Story Of The Babri Demolition

Despite assurances by the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who emphatically said 'We will not let another Ayodhya happen', the country may be moving towards another Ayodhya.

The 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya before it was demolished in December 1992
The 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya before it was demolished in December 1992 Getty Images

As the Gyanvapi issue dominates the national discourse, here’s an untold story of the Babri demolition narrated to this reporter by three different eyewitnesses on various occasions. When the crowd climbed up the tombs on December 6, 1992, and brought the structure down, the Ram lala deity that was placed underneath a tomb was also razed to the ground. The idols that had appeared in December 1949, disappeared in another December several decades later.

In October 2016, I raised the issue in a recorded interview with Bajrang Dal founder and then BJP MP Vinay Katiyar, who was among the prime actors on the day. About the demolition, he first said: “Dhai ghante ke andar sab khatam ho gaya. Ek-ek int chali gayi…lakhon log the.. ek-ek mutthi lekar chale gaye. Bacha kya wahan? Kuch nahin bacha. (Everything was over in two and a half hours. Every single brick was removed…there were lakhs of people…they carried one handful (of debris) each. What remained there? Nothing).” Asked about the idols underneath the tombs and whether the idols in the makeshift temple were the same, he quickly said: “The idols are the same,” and ended the interview. The mob didn’t spare the deity either; perhaps Ram lala just could not have been saved in the frenzied atmosphere.

One can also go back to what no one other than Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once emphatically said: “Kashi and Mathura are not on our agenda, they will never be…when we are saying that it’s not on our agenda, you need to trust us…hum Ayodhya ki punaravritti nahin hone denge, yah hum bilkul saaf baat kahna chahte hain. (We will not let another Ayodhya happen. We want to state it clearly).

Hindu mobs outside Babri Masjid in December, 1992 | Credit: Getty Images
Hindu mobs outside Babri Masjid in December 1992 | Credit: Getty Images

Despite assurances by the former prime minister, the country now moves towards another Ayodhya. But are these temple movements even reflective of India’s culture? When the word kar seva gained currency in the late 1980s, it was alien to most Hindus, even in north India. People were often left wondering about the meaning. The seminal work on the Ayodhya movement, Creating a Nationality, co-authored by Ashis Nandy, Shikha Trivedy, Shail Mayaram and Achyut Yagnik, accurately noted that “the idea and the term” were borrowed from Sikhism. “In much of Hindu India, the word did not even make any sense till recently,” the authors wrote.

READ THE IN-DEPTH STORY: Will Gyanvapi Set Off Another Ayodhya In India?

ALSO READ: Gyanvapi Row: Can Vivekananda's Wisdom Heal A Wounded Civilization?