Babri Masjid demolition anniversary: What my college taught me

Such catastrophes can be averted only if forces of majoritarian fundamentalism within all religions are combated effectively.

 |  5-minute read |   05-12-2017
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Among the most significant incidents that occurred during my student days at Kolkata’s Maulana Azad College was the barbaric demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. As communal disturbances engulfed the country following the tragedy, Kolkata initially witnessed a few instances of sporadic violence. However, the then chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, dealt with the troublemakers sternly and the administration worked proactively to prevent any serious outbreak of communal violence in the state.

The role of the civil society of Bengal during those troubled days was also exemplary. Many progressive mass organisations, cutting across party lines, hit the streets with the message of peace and communal harmony.

Prominent among them was the students’ union of the Maulana Azad College, which played a stellar role not only in ensuring the unity of the students, regardless of their religious backgrounds, in condemning and speaking out against the communal vandalism at Ayodha, but also in spreading the message of amity within the locality outside the college.

A big rally was organised by the Maulana Azad College Students’ Union, led by the principal of the college the late PK Ghosh, which travelled through the streets and bylanes, from Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, through Dedar Buksh Lane past Haji Md Mohsin Square to Alimuddin Street. Local people had greeted the hundreds of students and teachers who participated in that march for communal harmony with much enthusiasm.

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In the following days, a series of events were organised within the college, where faculty members as well as intellectuals from outside spoke to the students on the significance of what had happened in Ayodha, how irrational the entire episode was and how it was detrimental for the future of the country.

Among the five years that I spent in the college, those few weeks were perhaps the most educative. We learnt a lot about our own history, the freedom struggle, the partition, India’s Constitution, secularism and much more. For many of us, that education has since remained deeply ingrained in our beliefs - that as a country, India does not belong to any one religious community, it belongs to everyone. Any attempt to disrupt the bonds of unity within our diversity, will only weaken and impoverish us as a society, and hence such attempts need to be resisted.

Unfortunately, the forces which wreaked havoc in Ayodha 25 years ago have only grown in strength. These forces seek to misappropriate the Hindu religion and use it for their dubious political ends, targeting the minority communities and provoking hatred towards them. The same forces that had demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodha in 1992, are today talking about constructing a temple in the same site by the end of next year, without caring about the what the Supreme Court has to say on the matter. Their disdain towards the apex court, our Constitution and the law of the land exposes their real agenda - to subvert the secular and democratic character of the Indian state and replace it with a theocratic, fascistic regime where all citizens will not enjoy equal rights anymore.

babri-copy_120617121238.jpgSuch catastrophes can be averted only if forces of majoritarian fundamentalism within all religions are combated effectively.

If this is allowed to happen, it will amount to a total betrayal of our freedom fighters who had laid down their lives to create a free nation that was democratic, secular and socially just. Therefore, we need to combat these forces, unitedly with all our might. We cannot accept a future mired in sectarian strife, violence and politics based on communal hatred.

While in India, the forces of majoritarian communalism misuse the Hindu religion for their fascistic ends, there are political forces all over the world who are misutilising other religions with similar sinister motivations. The destruction of the centuries-old Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2001 was a signifier of what was to follow in the next decade and a half - wanton terrorism in the name of jihad by the al Qaeda, ISIS and their offshoots. This has not only torn apart the West Asia, but countries with large Muslim populations everywhere, including those in South Asia. Western imperialism led by the US has directly contributed to the rise of religious fundamentalism in myriad ways, primarily through its destructive “war on terror”, invoking the “clash of civilisations” and the religious “crusade” of the middle ages.

The Zionists in Israel continue to persecute and deny the rights of Palestinians. Even the Buddhist monks of Myanmar are taking up arms against the helpless Rohingya minority and condoning genocide. What we are witnessing today is an explosion of religious sectarianism, violence and hate politics across the globe, which if left unchecked, can only lead to the self-destruction of the human race. Nuclear weaponisation has also made this plausible.

Such catastrophes can be averted only if forces of majoritarian fundamentalism within all religions are effectively combatted from within, by the forces of reason, justice and humanitarianism. India, being a country which has been home to people from all faiths and religions, can become a beacon of religious tolerance, peaceful co-existence and multi-culturalism, for others to learn from.

In order to achieve that, however, we need to defeat the forces of majoritarian communalism at home and safeguard the secular character of our state and society.

Twenty five years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, it is this lesson taught by my college, which I still find to be of enduring significance.

Also read: How we created the myth of Muslim invader and a battlefield out of Babri

Writer

Prasenjit Bose Prasenjit Bose @boseprasenjit1

The writer is a Left-wing economist and activist.

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