20 years after Babri razing, India has moved on
Twenty years after the Babri mosque demolition sparked off the worst communal clashes after the subcontinent's partition in 1947, India has moved on. But analysts and politicians say there has to be a constant secular vigil.
Despite the then government's pledge, the razed 16th century mosque has not been rebuilt. On its ruins now stands a makeshift shrine for Hindu god Rama, guarded by hundreds of heavily armed security personnel.
The temple-mosque row of Ayodhya, where it all happened, no more elicits the kind of emotions it evoked in the late 1980s and early 90s, re-drawing the political map of the country.
"The general resentment against the demolition has been vindicated," says political analyst Aswini K. Ray. He said the incident came as a shock to India's deep-rooted secular traditions.
But the fact that no political party, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, today justifies the destruction is a "vindication of India's secularism", the former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor told IANS.
Added Rizwan Qaiser of Jamia Millia Islamia university here: "The country has moved on, so has the (Muslim) community, but the scar has remained."
It was on Dec 6, 1992, when a mob owing allegiance to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and related organisations overran the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh, and brought down the shrine in just six hours.
The calamitous event triggered nationwide rioting and sowed the seeds of Muslim anger India was not prepared for.
It also led to the rise and rise of the BJP, eventually catapulting it to power nationally in 1998.
George Mathew, chairman of the Institute of Social Sciences, said that mass determination not to look back has acted as a check against a repeat of such an incident.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the Babri demolition held valuable lessons for India, a Hindu-majority country with the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia.
According to published accunts, Babri mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a nobel in Mughal emperor Babur's court in 1528. Hindu groups say it came up at the very birthsite of Lord Rama and needed to go.
Attmpts by well-wishers to resolve the issue by holding discusions between Hindu and Muslim leaders have so far failed. The judiciary too has not succeeded in coming up with a solution acceptable to everyone.
While Ray felt the BJP was unlikely to revive the Ayodhya issue in a major way, Qaiser said the BJP was not raking up the row only because of electoral compulsions.
BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said the demolition was a reaction to "discrimination against the majority (community)" - a euphemism to mean that Muslims had been pampered by successive governments.
But he quickly added: "(Now) both the majority and minority communities would like to move on with a new political mantra called development."
Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said that while the Babri mosque may have faded from headlines, it would never be forgotten.
He pointed out that communal tensions were resurfacing in parts of the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. "We should not be complacent," the veteran parliamentarian told IANS.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)