EPW Meta-Report


India changed as a nation with the destruction of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992. The events of the day have not only permeated the social and political fabric of the country, they unfurled a series of events that have led to the creation of a new normal.


We trace the 28 years that created this normal, through 19 articles, the first one written in 1989:


The Event


In 1989,  the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a religious conference at the Kumbh Mela. The four provocative resolutions passed at the time, about which Gautam Navlakha reports here, were: the destruction of the Babri Masjid; the demand that Allahabad be renamed as Prayag; the denouncement of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir and Mizoram; and the warning of “Christian missionary inspired” separatist demands in Jharkhand.


In November 1989, A G Noorani wrote that as far as the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was concerned, “false history has become an ally of amoral politics. In this both the Congress(l) as well as the BJP are offenders.”


In 1990, Majid H Siddiqi poses the question: What is the role of a historian when it comes to politically fraught questions and interpretations of history, such as in the case of the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid conflict?


The Aftermath of the Event


This editorial published in EPW’s 5-12 December 1992 issue, argued that it had been entirely within the power of the central government headed by Rao to prevent the traumatic happenings in Ayodhya and the blood-bath across the country that has predictably ensued in their wake: it had the Constitution on its side, it had the requisite security forces at its command and it had been forewarned sufficiently in advance by the intending evildoers themselves.


Writing in December 1992, Amaresh Mishra, describes the impact of the destruction on UP politics and how, though the communal divide in the aftermath of the demolition of the mosque has percolated down to the villages, the BJP has been unable to achieve a large-scale expansion of its mass base.


In the same issue, Rajni Kothari reflected upon how the demolition of the Babri Masjid revealed that the appeal of religious bigotry was not limited to a few who had been mobilised for organised crime; it had spread to a large cross-section of the “masses”. She wrote that what Advani and company represented was an effort to semitise Hinduism, the most non-semitic of all cultures, an effort to catch up with the Semitic north just as Rajiv Gandhi was trying to catch up with the technological north. Both have together undermined the indigenous basis of Indian culture and polity. In Narasimha Rao both strains—the communal and the technological—meet.


The (Allahabad High Court) Verdict 


In response to the 2010 judgement by three-member special full bench of the Allahabad High Court, Anupam Gupta writes that Justices Agarwal and Sharma completed the “unfinished” task of demolition of the Babri Masjid with a remarkable indifference to the sensibilities of secularism by turning local traditions into judicial dogma, and constructing,through the Hinduism of mythology and legend, faith, ritual and sacred images, a temple where none existed.


While most reactions to the Ayodhya verdict focused on issues of law and issues of fact, what of the issues of faith? Kum Kum Roy wrote on the narrow perspective from which the richness and diversity of Hindu beliefs and practices have been represented in the verdict. Though many feel that the Ayodhya verdict has been successful in maintaining peace and harmony in turbulent times, what is distressing are the circuitous, even blatantly partisan, ways in which faith has been brought centre stage within legal discourse.


PA Sebastian argued that the judgment of the Allahabad High Court of 30 September 2010 in the Babri masjid-Ram janmabhoomi case had put the final seal on the acts of installation of statues and demolition of the mosque. In accordance with our constitutional scheme one seeks remedial measures from the judiciary when the executive or even the legislature commits illegal acts. But what can one do when the judiciary itself commits unlawful acts? He provides an introduction to and analysis of a series of judgments, amongst which he considers Ayodhya the latest, by the highest courts in India which cast doubt on the secular character of the Indian judicial system.


As we mark 25 years since the destruction, the Supreme Court has deferred the hearing to the 8th of February, 2018. has links to the articles mentioned in this meta-report.

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