New Delhi: India has
recovered from the shock of the cataclysmic events that followed
the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, but that dark episode should
be taken as a warning against mixing politics with religion and
inciting inter-community hatred, says the celebrated former BBC
journalist and author Mark Tully who was witness to it.
Tully, who covered the riotous events in Ayodhya on Dec 6, 1992,
felt the Ram Janambhoomi movement was not the sole factor for the
rise of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the late 1980s and that
the decline of the Congress also contributed to the process.
Recalling the events of Dec 6, 1992, the day Sangh Parivar groups
were to start building a Ram temple in Ayodhya, Tully said he had
taken position on a roof of a building overlooking the mosque. He
said Sangh Parivar groups, including the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP), had assured the administration that it would only
be a symbolic beginning and no harm would come to the mosque.
"Trouble broke out when young men wearing yellow headbands managed
to break police barriers and sought to make their way to where a
ceremony was to be held symbolising the laying of the first bricks
of the temple. Police had instructions not to open fire," Tully
recalled in an interview to IANS.
The crowds, he said, first attacked television crews and smashed
their cameras. "I saw two young men scramble on top of a dome and
start to dismantle it," Tully said, adding that they were soon
joined by others.
He said he had to drive from Ayodhya to Faizabad to file his story
as the telephone lines had been cut, but getting back to Ayodhya
was very difficult.
When he arrived in the town, jubiliant young men were chanting
slogans. "They were calling BBC names. I was locked up in one of
Tully said by the time he was released the mosque had been
"The demolition has been a day that shocked the world, that
shocked India. It led to riots," he said.
He said India had recovered from the crisis and continued with its
basic traditions. "(The demolition) is certainly not a burning
issue any longer, not a live issue at the moment."
However, the incident, he added, should be taken "as warning by
people in terms of mixing politics with religion and inciting
hatred". He said there was a danger that someone may raise the
issue again to divide India.
Tully said that the demolition of the Babri Masjid had dented
India's image but most of it had worn off. "I think India has
recovered. India was widely condemned, but no longer. It caused a
great deal of damage at that time. Most of that has worn off,"
Tully, an Englishman who has worked, lived and travelled in India
for over four decades, said he did not buy the theory that the Ram
Janambhoomi movement was solely responsible for the rise of the
BJP and "there were many other factors, including the decline of
Tully, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the country's third
highest civilian honour, in 2005, said the Congress had secured a
massive majority under former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the
1984 Lok Sabha elections but was not able to form a government
five years later. He said the party declined further under former
prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao (1991-95) and some leaders
"A lot of that was the fault of the Congress party itself in terms
of its inability to hold together," he said.
Tully added that the Babri Masjid issue was revived when the
Congress government unlocked the gates of the disputed structure
in the mid-1980s.
"After Shah Bano (the Muslim woman who fought for justice for
divorced women of her community, only to be rebuffed by the
government of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi), they (the
Congress government) opened the lock (to the gates of the
structure)" Tully said.
He said after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, there was no agreement
in the Congress on a leader and the Ayodhya issue widened the
inner-party rift and gave Rao's opponents an opportunity to move
Asked about the possible solution to the dispute, he said both
sides had agreed to abide by the decision of the court.
Tully said cases relating to demolition of the Babri Masjid have
been on for 20 years. "Twenty years on, cases have not been
decided one way or the other. (It is) not a very good reflection
on the Indian judicial system. In practical terms, it is not such
a bad thing as it had allowed things to fade away," he said.
Tully said it would be dangerous for the BJP to raise the pitch on
the Ayodhya issue and the party would be playing into the hands of
He said the BJP's future lay in being "a slightly right-wing party
concerned with development of the country. If it retreats too much
into Hindutva, it will put off more people", Tully told IANS.
Asked if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's projection as the
prime ministerial candidate in 2014 could revive the Ayodhya
issue, Tully said that Modi had concentrated on development in the
state. "Personally, I don't think (he will be projected). If, a
big if (he is projected), he will be more concerned about
(Prashant Sood can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)