What should have been a day of reflection was picked to become a day to institutionalise lawlessness like never before. December 6, the death anniversary of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, the drafter-in-chief of our Constitution, in 1992, became the day when they pulled Babri Masjid down, brick by communalised brick.
Multiple accounts of what happened on that day, reflections on how law was compromised at every level, as hundreds of kar sevaks, armed with iron rods, other weapons, brought down a 16th century mosque named after the Mughal emperor Babar, have been published. Almost each and everyone of them, except those written by luminaries in the saffron camp justifying the archaeological murder, as it were, rues how India lost its soul, its democratic uniqueness, its claim to multicultural, secular exceptionalism founded on the Constitution, as we drew an inner line of control within ourselves, Othering forever the Muslims among us.
In the hall of mirrors that Indian commentary and mainstream media has now become, much of historical accuracy is lost in the din of political point-scoring. So, here's a recap of the major names and their notorious contributions to the making of the day that sullied India's constitutional secularism forever.
LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti
Post-Emergency, since the formation of the BJP in 1980, Advani - the "Iron Man" of India, as well as his brethren in MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, were directly responsible in leading the mobs to Babri mosque's demolition. Advani's 1990 rath yatra across much of north India was one of incitement and constant communalisation, raking up the Ayodhya issue. Advani, Joshi and Bharti gave gleeful speeches that directly resulted in emboldening the kar sevaks, and a religious wrath was unleashed on December 6, 1992.
With the Supreme Court now re-opening the Ayodhya case, Advani once again stands as an accused, as the main culprit of the Babri demolition episode. Though he has supposedly "repented" and has publicly said that December 6, 1992 was the "saddest day" of his life, it's only fair that the man is tried in the court of law, along with his colleagues.
RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal
The seed of the Ram Janmabhoomi crisis was sowed when in 1949, on the night of December 22-23, effigies of Ram lalla and Sita were "discovered" in the Babri masjid and given divine significance. Noted journalist and chronicler of the Geeta Press, the ideological kernel of the Sangh Parivar, has written how accounts of RSS insiders now frankly admit that the idol was smuggled in by members of the Sangh, particularly Baba Raghubar Das and Hanuman Prasad Poddar, an important trustee of Hindutva-spouting Geeta Press.
The 1.5 lakh kar sevaks, or volunteers, organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad -VHP- led the demolition of Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, vastly outnumbering the 2,500 police personnel stationed to prevent the disaster. Riots followed, and Bajrang Dal played a pivotal part in weaponising the Hindus, brainwashing the hitherto moderates or/and apolitical individuals. In Bombay, Shiv Sena, under the aegis of Bal Thackeray, led riotous mobs that resulted in arson of Muslim-heavy slums, deaths and destruction, and more.
Congress under PV Narasimha Rao
The Congress party and the government in the Centre led by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao came off as grossly incompetent spectators in the grand gladiatorial sport that unleashed so much bloodshed in cycles. Not only did the Centre fail to protect the mosque and prevent the grisly sight of kar sevaks bringing Babri down, PM Rao's "soft Hindutva" blinded government to the fallout of the terrible manmade tragedy.
PM Rao blamed the UP government for non-cooperation, but given it was a BJP regime in Uttar Pradesh, led by Kalyan Singh, it was obvious that Centre had to step up to prevent the destruction. However, such was the majoritarian fever at that point - perhaps mirroring somewhat the present times - that a timid Congress-led Centre decided to play blame-games with the UP government rather than ensure the mosque's security and Hindu-Muslim unity at a trying time.
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi's "balancing act" in 1985 also cost India dearly, resulting ultimately in the 1992 debacle. Having appeased the Muslim fundamentalists by overturning the landmark Shah Bano judgment, in which the divorced wife was deemed entitled to an alimony, PM Gandhi needed to correct his image. This he decided to do by pandering to the Hindu zealots behind the Ayodhya movement.
In 1985, Gandhi ordered that the gates of Babri masjid be opened and the lock be removed - the lock that had proved to be a dyke against the Hindu extremist forces since 1949. The contested site, by then known as the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, had till then allowed a priest to hold a ceremony worshipping the Ram lalla idols "discovered" in December 1949. Ever since, Gandhi ordered the lock to be removed, as gesture of outreach to quell the "angry Hindus" supposedly outraged at the cowering of the government in the Shah Bano case, the road to Babri Masjid's eventual destruction was paved, one communalised day at a time.
From the courts that kept the issue hanging to the Archaeological Survey of India that fortified the Sangh Parivar's claim saying there was a temple that was destroyed in 1528 to build the Babri mosque, failures of Indian institutions were difficult to witness.
Perhaps, if there was one institution that firmly condemned the heinous act of political vandalism, it was India's mainstream media, particularly the English dailies that called it a "Black Day". India Today magazine called the episode "Nation's Shame", and it still remains so.