Babri Masjid: The Day India Became Hindustan


Babri Masjid: The Day India Became Hindustan

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza/ Arré

In December 1992, television news had not yet become the omnipresent, multi-headed Hydra it is today, and the term website did not exist in our lexicon. News came to us sparsely in the form of a few arresting images that defined an event. On that December 6 morning, I didn’t hear about the demolition of Babri Masjid, I saw it in pictures of kar sevaks – little tridents and saffron flags in their hands – struggling to gain a foothold on the mosque’s dome and then finally, getting it. It was an image that said everything –  they had won the battle. It would be many years before I realised that those triumphant men on the mosque’s gumbad hadn’t won anything. Instead they’d defeated – at least temporarily – the idea of a united India.

Twenty five years later, that significance of that image becomes all the more clear. It is only now that we can look at that moment in light of what has gone down. This was the moment that rent the secular fabric of the nation. A place of worship revered by Hindus and Muslims alike became the site of a pitched battle, fought along deeply riven religious fault lines. The juggernaut that was set in motion on December 6, 1992, is now manifest as virulent right-wing nationalism – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s and Bhartiya Janta Party’s vision of a Hindu Rashtra, now almost complete.

The move to demolish the mosque was not a “spontaneous” or “unplanned” expression of Hindu sentiment, the way some leaders had then tried to define it. Not only were the VHP and BJP cadres armed and trained for it – responding to the resounding call of “Ek dhakka aur do” – the rest of the country had been primed to accept the Ram Janmabhoomi movement through a careful socio-political-cultural campaign.