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Re-examining an imbroglio

CHECKING FACTS: Youths atop the Babri Mosque before it was brought down.   | Photo Credit: DOUGLAS E. CURRAN

When the Babri Masjid was demolished by a frenzied mob of karsevaks egged on by the RSS-VHP-BJP leaders on December 6, 1992, many thought that the Babri mosque-Ramjanmabhoomi controversy also got buried under its debris. As nothing significant happened for many years to construct a temple on that spot, this view was further strengthened. However, it was not to be so as the issue was essentially of a political rather than religious nature. A day before the mosque fell, I had written in an edit-page article in The Pioneer: “The Ayodhya campaign is nothing but an unabashed endeavour to put the Muslim community in its place and to tell it in unambiguous terms that it will have to live on the mercy of the majority.”

Since 1996 many surveys have been conducted by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) to gauge the impact of the demolition and find out how many Hindus want only a temple to be built on the site, how many Muslims want only a mosque and how many Hindus and Muslims want both a mosque and a temple. Its latest survey as reported in the media has drawn some very disturbing conclusions that establish that large sections of the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh have internalised a belief that the current system cannot address their concern in a fair manner and now less number of Muslims want only a mosque at the site. The survey tells us that the change has not come about because Muslims have become more secular but because of the alienation they feel. Greater communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh has also made more Hindu respondents to say that they wanted only a temple.

Re-examining an imbroglio

Serious scholars always questioned the association of Babur’s name with the mosque as he had never visited Ayodhya and no firman of his could be found that ordered his military commander Mir Baqi to construct a mosque in place of the Ramjanmasthan temple. However, the VHP propaganda described all the Muslims as the ‘progeny of Babur’ and provocative slogans were freely raised in the run-up to the mosque’s demolition.

Before this horrifically momentous act was committed, a number of liberal and Leftist historians took up the cudgel on behalf of the Babri Masjid Action Committee. They insisted that the so-called Babri mosque was not built after demolishing a temple while the Ayodhya movement protagonists alleged that the mosque stood on the ruins of a Ramjanmasthan temple built by King Vikramaditya.

Re-examining an imbroglio

In my view, it did not serve any purpose to insist that there did not exist a temple on the site because it implied that had it existed, then the demand to demolish the mosque and build a temple in its place would be justified. In fact, the VHP had drawn up a list of hundreds of mosques that it claimed had been built after demolishing temples and required to be converted into temples. It had also raised the demand – thankfully not heard these days but it could be revived at any opportune time – that the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Krishna Janmasthan mosque in Mathura should be immediately handed over to it.

A new and extremely well researched book has now reopened the issue. It has been written by Kishore Kunal, a retired Indian Police Service officer who was part of the Ayodhya cell as Officer on Special Duty (Ayodhya) under Prime Ministers V. P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P. V. Narasimha Rao and is a Sanskrit scholar as well as a serious researcher of history. Published by Ocean Books, “Ayodhya Revisited” is a nearly 800-page tome and Kunal has been able to bring to light a large body of new evidence. In his view, the mosque had nothing to do with Babur or any of his generals and Mir Baqi is a fictitious person who has no resemblance with Baqi Tashkindi / Shegawal of the “Baburnama”. He is convinced that a temple did exist on the site but it was demolished not in 1528 A.D. but in 1660 A. D. when Fedai Khan was the governor of Aurangzeb at Ayodhya. He also maintains that both the Hindus and the Muslims used to perform puja and offer namaz until 1858 A.D. and that by 1813 A.D. the Shia clergy had faked an inscription that spoke of Babur’s general Mir Baqi and pushed the construction of the mosque back by more than a century.

Re-examining an imbroglio

The book deserves a close reading by professional historians who alone can decide if Kunal’s conclusions merit acceptance or rejection. So far as I am concerned, I do not believe in the theory of historical revenge and righting the wrongs of the past by committing the same in the present.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 10:47:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/Re-examining-an-imbroglio/article16788955.ece

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