Babri Flashback

In this file photograph taken Dec. 6, 1992 Hindu youths clamor atop the 16th century Babri Masjid five hours before the structure was completely demolished by hundreds supporting Hindu fundamentalist activists. Hindu nationalists believe that Babur's commander-in-chief Mir Baki destroyed an existing temple at the site, which Hindus believe was the temple built to commemorate the birthplace of Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and ruler of Ayodhya. After 48 extensions and 399 hearings involving over 100 witnesses spread over nearly 17 years, Justice M.S. Liberhan June 30, 2009 submitted his report on the demolition of Babri Masjid to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Final hearings in the case began Dec. 4, 2017. (Douglas E. Curran/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — Twenty-five years after the Babri Masjid demolition, journalists here Dec. 6 recalled their experiences of reporting on the watershed moment in the Indian politics, concluding that the vandalism that brought down the mosque was not a spontaneous act of passion of the people, but the outcome of a meticulous conspiracy hatched at the top.

They discussed the event, which in its wake divided Hindus and Muslims, at the Press Club of India at the invitation of news website The Wire.

Referring to "classic" news footage of the episode, senior journalist Saeed Naqvi said none of those featured in it spoke for Lord Ram or what the agitation was about, and said the whole exercise was "choreographed" and in fact directed at Pakistan.

"I was one of those stupid converts who thought that 'Babri Masjid' was negotiable. I thought the Hindu 'aastha' was for the Ram Mandir," said Naqvi, who was a reporter for The World Report in 1992 – the year the masjid was demolished.

"After Babri Masjid, Indian communalism reached a pitch from where it could never retreat... and it's going to be extremely difficult for it to make a retreat," he said.

He added that the Babri Masjid episode was but one aspect of the race between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress for the "consolidation of Hindu votes" against "minority extremism."

Another journalist who worked as a special correspondent for Business India recalled her attack and molestation at the hands of vandals when she entered the mosque to investigate the demolition underway.

"It was packed with saffron-clad karsevaks... Someone heard someone say 'Musalmaan' and they tried to smother me thinking I was a Muslim. Some of them even molested me and tore my clothes, until I was rescued by one of them who recognized me as I had interviewed him a day before," Ruchira Gupta, now an independent journalist, said.

"When I approached Advani (L.K Advani) who was at the 'terrace' and told him to ask people to stop attacking journalists, he said 'apne sath jo hua wo bhool jao, itna aitihaasic din hai uski khushi me kuchh meetha khao (forget what happened with you, have some sweets, it's such a historic day)," she recounted.

Advani concluded his every "Rath Yatra," Gupta said, with an exhortation to the crowd to build the temple where Babri Masjid once stood.

"The misogyny, the sexism has become part of the ruling party’s framework," she added.

Praveen Jain, a photojournalist with The Pioneer at the time, recounted coming across a group of people Dec. 5, 1992, in the midst of a proper "rehearsal" of the moves which felled the mosque a day later.

"I was taken to a site near the 'masjid' by a BJP MP, who gave me a saffron scarf and Vishwa Hindu Parishad i-card also... I saw several men practicing there with spades and ropes upon a mound made for the purpose. The methods were used the next day in bringing down the mosque," Jain, now with Indian Express, said.

Then BBC bureau chief Mark Tully said: "What was completely disgraceful was that the authority of the government completely collapsed. There was no government in Ayodhya that day. Security forces remained parked in nearby areas and offered no resistance... 'Karsevaks' had complete control over things. Obscene slogans were shouted against Muslims."

The Supreme Court Dec. 4 began the final hearing on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, after the 2010 high court judgement divided the site between three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Lord Ram Lalla.

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