Twenty five years ago this very day, I had reached Faizabad on an overnight train from Delhi, fully convinced in my mind that I was going to be a part of a very major event, the contours of which were not clear to me as of then.
For the previous month, I had exhaustively covered the Babri Masjid developments, the ins and outs of various dialogue with various interest groups and the government and the ongoing buzz over what would happen on December 6, 1992.
I had a violent disagreement with a journalist friend who said, “This is India and I am confident that no attempt would be made to bring down the Babri Masjid.” I told him that this time the mood was different and I didn't want to miss the action in Ayodhya.
The hotel in Faizabad was packed to the gills with journalists and photographers but we all managed to fit in somehow.
When I reached Ayodhya and the Babri Masjid on the fateful morning of December 6, the entire area was a sea of saffron as far as the eye could see in any direction. Pujas, havanas, marchpasts were the order of the day with sadhus, sants, and kar sevaks dressed in the gerua colour spread out over the vast area.
On the far side was a big stage with the BJP leaders perched there, and all around was a sea of humanity.
Before you knew it, young men with axes, sickles hammers and other sharp objects had broken the police cordons set up all around the Babri Masjid as they shouted Jai Sri Ram slogans. They reached the masjid and began climbing up the walls to reach the domes. They began to hammer and break the masjid even as the atmosphere turned electric and many of us just stood and stared in stupefied silence.
The slogan shouting was reaching a frenzy and from the stage, the likes of Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharti were egging the crowd on shouting into the mike, ‘Ek Dhakka Aur Do’, and the sea of humanity would chorus ‘Babri Masjid Tod Do’. The crowd swayed as though in a trance and not a single leader sitting on that dias made any attempt to stop the vandals from demolishing the Mughal-era mosque.
For five long hours, this continued till every last bit of the Babri Masjid had been dismantled brick-by-brick, and at the end kar sevaks were seen leaving the area, each carrying a brick as a souvenir.
I waited for the police to act. Nothing happened. I waited for the Rapid Action Force, stationed just outside the area to move in and stop the vandalism. Nothing happened and no one came.
I waited for the army to move in but not a bird entered the entire area and no one lifted a finger to stop what was going on. As I stood amidst the crowd jotting furiously in my notebook, a saffron-robe clad man with a Jai Sri Ram bandanna tied around his head approached me with an open knife which he put on my stomach and yelled, “Bhago nahin to maar doonga.” Not willing to sacrifice my young life, I bolted from there and went and stood next to some senior police officers who were watching the ongoing drama with deadpan expressions on their faces.
They obviously had their orders from Lucknow where chief minister Kalyan singh had masterminded the entire episode with a great deal of co-operation from Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
While reporters were being threatened, cameramen and photographers had their cameras taken away and broken as the kar sevaks did not want any evidence of the day’s developments. The BBC's Mark Tully, who broke the story to the outside world, was roughed up, his camera broken and later many of us escorted him safely out of the premises, covered in a blanket.
Astonishing as it now sounds and looks, the ease with which the entire Babri Masjid was razed to the ground in exactly five hours had to be seen to be believed. By 5 PM, the area had been cleaned and under a large piece of cloth a makeshift canopy was put up and Ramlalla was safely brought back and placed under the canopy. The long disputed masjid was no more and instead a Ram Mandir had been put in its place.
Twenty-five years later, all the disputes still continue. There is no resolution on the title of the land, what will happen to the premises, will Ramlalla continue to stay there? Nothing has happened and nothing has been resolved.
The culprits who were responsible for what had happened on that fateful day have also not been brought to justice. I was called by the CBI to be a witness against the perpetrators of the mosque demolition, and week after week, I would travel to depose before the special CBI court in Rae Bareilly but nothing has come out of that also.
The cases have been clubbed and now the case is being heard in Lucknow. Uma Bharti is a mantri in Narendra Modi's cabinet, Kalyan singh is a governor. LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and others have not been held guilty yet.
The act of bringing down the Babri Masjid damaged the Indian, particularly the Muslim, psyche. Congress was the worst hit as the Muslims took a long time to trust the party again. After all, Narasimha Rao was a Congress prime minister and he was seen as the man who presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It was seen as Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. Rao was watching television even as the Babri masjid was completely annihilated in Ayodhya.
[The above article was first published by National Herald.]
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