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This article is part of a series called “Heroes And Sheroes Of Plural India” under #AnHourForCommunalHramony campaign to celebrate the Heroes and Sheroes who struggled to shape modern India in all its plurality.  Today we celebrate Akshay Brahmachari who worked for communal harmony in Ayodhya.  All are welcome to contribute an hour of your day, in celebrating these Heroes and Sheroes of plural India

The Babri Masjid – Ram Janmabhoomi dispute is not unknown to many. However the sordid details of what happened on the night of 22 December 1949, the preparations that went into achieving what was achieved that night, what happened in its aftermath and the various characters involved and the roles played by them, may not be very widely known. “Ayodhya: The Dark Night – The Secret History of Rama’s Appearance in Babri Masjid”, a book by Krishna Jha and Dhirendra. K. Jha, researches and documents in detail, the cast, characters, plot and story of what happened at the Babri Masjid site in 1949 (Jha & Jha, 2012, 2016). In this entire account of deceit and the communally charged atmosphere that was created, there was one man who stood out and fought for communal peace and harmony, and did it till the very end of his life.

An avowed Gandhian, Akshay Brahmachari was Secretary of the Faizabad District Congress Committee in 1949. He made numerous attempts to first prevent and subsequently douse the communal flare up that was threatening to engulf Ayodhya at the time. The authors of the book write:

“As early as in the middle of November 1949, when the communalists were busy digging up Muslim graves and desecrating the graveyard outside the mosque, Brahmachari personally visited the spot and raised the issue with District Collector K.K.K. Nair, unaware that everything was happening with the connivance of the administration. It did not take him long to realize the truth. For, barely hours after he discussed the issue with Nair, a group of communalists barged into Brahmachari’s house and assaulted him brutally.”

Although he could not prevent the installation of the idol in the mosque, which was installed on the night of 22 December, 1949, by Abhiram Das, however, it did-not deter him and he continued his fight for truth and justice, writing a memorandum to the then UP Home Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, on 20 February, 1950, hinting at the complicity of the District Magistrate, K.K.K. Nair in the process.

The authors further write:

“He persisted with his protest even if it meant travelling all alone, for all those who mattered in Ayodhya and Faizabad seemed to have ganged up against the mosque, and Muslims were too frightened to come out in his support. Communalists, who roamed the street of Ayodhya without any fear, started calling him ‘Islamophile’ and ‘the real trouble maker’, and within days, Brahmachari was forced to leave Ayodhya. Once he left, the mob broke open the lock and occupied his house.”

Even after this, he continued to liaison with the higher-ups trying his best to undo the damage that had already been done and to prevent any further damage to the Hindu-Muslim relations. However, his attempts didn’t yield any concrete result. And so, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, he decided to fast unto death.

The authors write:

“On 17 January 1950, a day after Gopal Singh Visharad’s suit seeking permission to use the Babri Masjid as a temple and calling for an injunction against the removal of the idol from the mosque was admitted in the civil court of Faizabad, he wrote a short and straight letter to Lal Bahadur Shastri, expressing his distress at the government’s reaction to the developments in Ayodhya and declaring his intention to sit on a fast unto death from 26 January 1950 to force the government to take appropriate action in the case.”

Due to 26 January, 1950, being the day when our Constitution was adopted, he could not begin his fast on that day. However, he began his fast on 30 January, 1950, only four days later. Attempts were made to discredit the fast, however it could not be ignored. Due to assurances given by Lal Bahadur Shastri, he agreed to end his fast on 4 February, 1950.

Even after this, seeing that the situation wasn’t improving, he continued to write to Lal Bahadur Shastri, sending him reminders after reminders.

The authors further write:

“Simultaneously, Brahmachari took the battle to Delhi. On 8 July, 1950, he had a long meeting with Nehru to whom he explained in detail all the happenings in Ayodhya and Faizabad as well as the apathetic attitude of the provincial government.”

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Shastri and directed Brahmachari to talk to him. However, nothing concrete emerged out of this too. And so, he wrote to Lal Bahadur Shastri intimating him of his desire to renew his fast on 22 August, 1950, which he began as promised. This fast to be a much longer one and continued for thirty-two days. The issue was discussed and debated in the legislative Assembly again and again, however, still no concrete promises were given.

The authors note:

“Akshay Brahmachari, therefore, continued with his fast, which had already entered its fourth week. He had become very weak, and his health was deteriorating fast. It was in these circumstances that two prominent Gandhians of the time – Vinoba Bhave and K.G. Mashruwala – intervened to prevail upon Brahmachari to end his fast.”

Akshay Brahmachari broke his fast on 22 September, 1950. However, his struggle for communal harmony did-not end with the fast and continued till the end of his life.

The authors finally state:

“He spent the rest of his life attempting to resolve the Babri Masjid – Ram Janmabhoomi problem and to deepen the roots of communal harmony. But it was a silent struggle all through. And when he died after a prolonged illness in Mayo Hospital in Lucknow on 28 April, 2010, only a small group of his friends and his long-term companion Meera Behn felt the loss. The Akshay Brahmachari Ashram in Chinhat on the outskirts of Lucknow still carries on the mission the Gandhi of Ayodhya had set for it.”

Such are the unsung heroes who have faced all adversities and stood tall for peace and communal harmony. Their lives need to be retrieved from the annals of history, committed to memory, told, re-told and again re-told for generations together, and celebrated for all their worth.

References

Jha, K., & Jha, D. K. (2012, 2016). Ayodhya: The Dark Night – The Secret History of Rama’s Appearance in Babri Masjid. Harper Collins Publishers.

Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.Blog at http://fromwordstovoid.blogspot.in/

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    It is regrettable that very few realised his valuable contribution to communal harmony are absolute need of the hour. People should know about such tireless gandhians who worked for communal harmony