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Revisiting Babri

By Ram Puniyani

27 March, 2007

This 6th Dec., it will be 15 years when Babri Mosque was demolished by the RSS combine in a well coordinated operation. When Babri was being demolished, it was not just demolition of a mosque and hurting the sentiments of largest minority in the country, it was also a blow to the democratic Indian ethos. It was a complex process and multiple factors were involved. Who is to be blamed for the whole episode needs to be understood in the perspective of the political factors unleashed by sectarian politics. Rahul Gandhi recently (March 2007) stated that had Gandhi family person been around, meaning especially Rajiv Gandhi; the Masjid could not have been demolished. It is one of the big ifs of history.

That the then Prime Minister Narsimha Rao aided the demolition is beyond any shadow of doubt. Some have gone to the extent of saying that RSS and Rao were in collusion, some have gone to the extent of saying that Rao was wearing Khaki shorts underneath his dhoti, like many other Congressmen, who are ideologically compromised and are in Congress mainly to enjoy the fruits of power. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the values which were the dominant part of Congress, the values which had lions share in leading the struggle for India's independence. While the political phenomena have their own logic, the values held by the leaders matter a lot. And it is here that Rao was aiding the RSS project of deepening the politics of hate in India.

Let us recapitulate the events as they unfolded in the decade of eighties in order to understand the process of demolition. It was mainly a reflection of the rising clout of RSS. Beginning with 1980s one witnessed the discomfort in the sections of middle class Hindus, who saw the 'disturbing' change in the form of dalits coming to the fore, the women coming out from the four walls of the house and making their presence felt in the social sphere. Both these sections of society, living as subordinate and subjugated groups for centuries saw the possibility of striving for equality, as enshrined in Indian constitution. This subtle but sure phenomenon of Indian society was unacceptable to the entrenched affluent middle classes. Their discomfort with this change came up in the form of opposition to reservations for dalits, Gujarat anti Dalit riots 1981 and Gujarat Anti OBC/ dalit riots of 1986, being just a manifestation of the same.

It is during this period that communal polarization started coming up and the case of Shah Bano acted as a trigger for consolidation of the RSS supporters. This time Rajiv Gandhi's lack of grooming in the deeper understanding in politics, led him to bypass the court judgment. This in turn was used as a pretext for polarizing of Hindu upper middle classes under the leadership of Sangh combine. This act of Rajiv Gandhi was 'successfully' propagated as appeasement of minorities and pseudo secularism. These formulations were lapped up by the dominant middle classes, who started responding more and more to Yatras and other VHP initiated campaigns. After playing this 'Muslim card' the immature Congress leadership decided to play the Hindu card by yielding to the pressure of BJP/VHP and company for getting the locks of Babri opened and later permitting Shilaynyas for Ram temple. This pressure of Hindu rightwing was also discernible when Rajiv launched the campaign for 1989 elections on the plank of Ram Rajya. These came in handy to Hindu consolidation, which later got further boost when V.P. Singh, for his own compulsions, decided to implement Mandal. To bypass Mandal BJP resorted to intensify Yatras, identity based politics. Keeping electoral compulsions in mind, BJP's politics revolved around Ram Temple as its central agenda. Incidentally Ram temple was no where on the agenda of BJP, which was harping on Gandhian socialism, till then. Its discovery that Lord Ram can be of great help in garnering votes led it to put most of its eggs in the basket of the campaign and conspiracy to destroy the Babri Mosque.

Ram temple issue became the symbol of assertion of affluent Hindutva politics in opposition to the democratic values. Identity, especially religious one, came up in a big way and waylaid the real issues of the poor and struggling majority of Hindus as well as other sections of society. As Congress, after Nehru's death, had already been open to heavy compromises on the issue of secularism, a fertile ground was already there starting from Indira Gandhi to undermine the secular values and to merely pay lip service to secularism, to use Muslims only as vote banks. It is under these circumstances that Narsimha Rao could enjoy his siesta when the shovels and trishuls of RSS combine were piercing Indian constitution, when Bari was being mauled by the saffron foot soldiers. These foot soldiers were indoctrinated by the ideology of Hate Muslim, Babar as the invader, the Muslims as destroyers of temples and killers of our mother cow. It was the most clever and wily move by Brahminical politics to use the down trodden to hoist the saffron flag atop Babri and to herald the political assertion of Manusmriti's values in the garb of Hindu glory. While the leadership wanting to impose Hindu Rashtra, ignited and incited, the sections of poor community acted as the foot soldiers behaving as if under trance, under the spell of opium of religious identity.

Coming to the events, National Integration Council concerned with the events took the promise from UP chief minister Kalyan Sing of BJP that he is under constitutional obligation to protect the mosque. The same Kalyan Singh later called it as a matter of honor for him to have supervised the demolition. It is another matter that as a weather cock he kept changing his versions from glory to shame, depending on the political contingencies. He was strategically located as UP chief minister. State Government was responsible for supervising law and order. The RSS combine mobilized crowds, which also included some of those elements that were specially trained for the task of demolition. It is unlikely that the intelligence agencies would have missed it. Rao played the ideal foil to these designs and not only during demolition but also prior to that when the heat was building up, cleverly slept over the build up for demolition. He had the 'ideal' home minister in the form of Shakar Rao Chavan, who had no mean role in aiding the process of demolition.

While one does concede that probably Rao was the worst person to be in the seat of power, one also notes that with the rot in which Congress had been falling at ideological level, how much any body else could have been able to protect the mosque is not clear. Rajiv himself had blundered on various secular issues all through. Anti Sikh pogrom in Delhi, opening the doors of Masjid and Ram Shila pujan, all these showed that irrespective of his intentions he had no ideological tools to protect the Babri. One may partly grant Rahul Gandhi's point, but one must look at the deeper societal processes and the will of the leadership to stand for values even at the cost of power. While currently there are some encouraging signs from the Congress top leadership on the issue of secularism, that's not only inadequate, it can not hold the national together on the grounds of national community. Even Rahul Gandhi's own statement betrays the lack of political training amongst the leadership of Congress in general and all non BJP parties in particular. While BJP has the heavy influx of RSS trained volunteers, the one's trained in the ideology of Hate other, in the ideology of Hindu nation disguised as nationalism.

Have the parties like Congress tried to introspect as to what are the ideas which its cadre is having? With the current ideological frame of its workers it cannot be trusted to uphold the torch of values of Gandhi-Nehru i.e. freedom movement. As such, Rahul Gandhi's statement grasps just a minor part of the problem. For the nation, question is not just of this or that leader but of the values of Indian Constitution. It is not just a matter of Rao versus Rajiv, but of democracy versus Hindu Rashtra. For the nation the issue is of undertaking political steps which should wean us away from identity politics to the issues of people, the issue between democratic
nationalism and pseudo i.e. Hindu nationalism. The issue relates to address the concerns related to bread butter, shelter, employment, health and education and bypassing the agenda set by RSS, the agenda of temples and similar emotive campaigns.


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