Sometimes, memories stacked away for long, come tumbling out. If these are not just about personal nostalgia, dwelling upon them could serve some public good.
It was 31 October, 1984. The time may have been around 11 am. I was taking my second term exams for class XI in a room on the ground floor of the science block of the Delhi Public School, R K Puram, New Delhi. Unfortunately, mine was the first seat very close by to the only entrance and the exit for the room. ‘Unfortunately’ because this made seeking the help and guidance of fellow examinees in this ordeal a rather adventurous proposition. Nevertheless, I focussed on the question paper intently, trying to make sense of what was expected of me.
A while after the examination had taken off, the teacher invigilating in our room and other teachers in the adjacent rooms flocked together at the door of our room for a conference of sorts, each having a cup of tea in their hands which had been duly served by that time. Barely a minute or so into their hushed conference, I over heard one of the teachers remark – ‘madam ko to goliyan lag rahin hain’ (madam is being riddled with bullets). I was a bit startled as to what that could mean; but then, I had a task at hand and got immersed in it before long. Continue reading Seasons of Violence: Vikas Bajpai→
Twenty five years ago, on 6 December 1992, the structure of Babri Masjid was brought down by a mob of vandals, presided over by the top leadership of the BJP/RSS/VHP, as the Congress government led by prime minister Narasimha Rao looked on benignly. As did the Supreme Court before which a commitment was made by the Kalyan Singh (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh – to the effect that nothing would be allowed to happen to the structure of the mosque.
Journalist Sajeda Momin, covering the demolition, recalls the scene thus,
I can still see the thousands of saffron-clad ‘kar sevaks’ clambering atop the 16th century mosque and pounding it with shovels, iron rods, pickaxes and anything they could lay their hands on. I can hear the screeching of Sadhvi Uma Bharti egging them on shouting “ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do” through the microphones from atop the specially-built watchtower for the BJP/RSS/VHP leadership. I can visualize the three domes of the mosque collapsing inwards one by one at intervals of roughly an hour on that cold, wintery Sunday afternoon.
Everyone knew who were the dramatis personae at each level – and practically every bit of evidence that would ever have been required exists, captured in videos and photographs. Our present prime minister was said to be one of the key organizers of the of the Rath Yatra that led up to the demolition and can be seen holding the microphone in his hands in the photograph below.
Worse was to follow the demolition. The demolition of the structure of the mosque was over that day but the process of the demolition of the Indian Constitution that had begun with what was called the ‘Ram janmabhoomi movement’ continued. By ‘Constitution’ I do not simply mean the book that embodies the law of the land but rather the very weave that came to constitute Indian society as a result of the new contract that the document called the Constitution embodied. Constitution, therefore in a triple sense. The document called the Constitution too was not merely a book of laws; it was rather, the only existing, largely agreed upon, vision of a modern India. It was a vision which was put in place through the long process of struggles, debates and contestations over the long decades of the anticolonial movement and finally given shape in, in the Constituent Assembly. There was nothing benign or innocuous about it – every bit of it had to be achieved through a fight. And yet, in the end, that was the document that embodied the vision of modern India. The only political current that stood far away from both the anticolonial struggle and had no role in the creation of this vision is the political force that rules India today.
The RSS and its numerous offshoots were neither fighting the British nor joining in the anti-caste and anti-untouchability struggles through the period since they came into existence in the mid-1920s. No wonder leaders of the Sangh combine think the anti-colonial/ national struggle was about cow-protection. That they neither subscribed to the anti-British agenda nor to the anti-caste agenda around which struggles of that period took shape, is not just a matter of historical record but is also visible in the way its leaders and ranks conduct their politics today. Every single step taken by the Sangh leaders is a step out of sync with the vision of the future spelt out by the social contract of modern India. That the Sangh attributes this vision to the Congress is an expression of its own illiteracy about the diverse forces in struggle throughout that period.
Even though it is conducted in the name of Hindus, there is nothing ‘Hindu’ about its agenda. Sangh and Sanghism is the name of a malignant political machine that seeks to destroy the very body of society in the name of an ancient past. That is the political machine we confront today. That is the political machine that we must fight today with all our vigour.
In this piece, I would like to share my reading of judgments on Ayodhya. I have only managed to go through the judgment of Justice Khan in detail and parts of justice Agarwal and Sharma’s expositions. Though the Lucknow bench of Allahabab High Court accepted the Hindu faith-based claims about Ram’s birth at the disputed site and the 2-1 verdict went for its three-way partition, all the three judges differed in their takes on the issues related to claims and counter-claims reflecting not only their individual subjectivity but also social loci. To be more candid, they hardly hide their community background and their stakes as insiders.
The bench has anchored its verdict it by referring to religious scriptures, medieval memoirs, foreigners’ travelogues, colonial records, and history books well as folklore and oral tradition. But the judges’ reading of these texts differed much less on legal nuances and more on interpretations and inferences based on their own religio-political understanding and beliefs.
Here is what I found interesting in Justice Khan’s judgment. He differed with other two judges on substantial points: the acceptance of disputed site, to be precise, the area under the central dome of the demolished mosque as Ram’s birthplace, Babar’s demolition of a pre-existing Hindu temple and the mosque’s validity as a proper mosque.