by Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai 6 January 2023
December 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the demolition of the historical Babri Mosque by Hindu extremists in December 1992. The mosque was built in 1528-29 by Mughal emperor Zaheer Uddin Babar in Ayodhya, Utter Pradesh. The demolition of the mosque three decades ago and the present regime of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have a strong link pointing toward two broader indications: First, India is not a secular state despite its constitutional discourse of secularism, and second, India is a fundamental Hindu ideological state encouraged by successive governments and a complicit judiciary, which has enabled right-wing Hindu fundamentalists to define the parameters of the Hindu faith accepted by the state. An analytical understanding is required of the historical instances that encouraged radical Hindus to demolish the Babri Mosque and how this trail of events encouraged the far-right BJP to rise and make life difficult for minorities. Matters have deteriorated to the extent that India can no longer be considered a secular state nor a truly democratic country despite its constitutional claims.
In December 1949, two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members: K. K. Nayyar, the Utter Pradesh Deputy Commissioner, and Guru Datta Singh, the City Magistrate, placed Ram and Sita’s idols in the Babri mosque. The issue went to the court of law, which resulted in the closure of the mosque. In another related instance, the District and Session Judge Faizabad, on an appeal by Umesh Chandra Pandey, allowed Hindus to openly worship their idols while the legal case was pending in the Allahabad high court. All this was not happening under BJP but with the support of Congress. It was reported that one of Rajiv Gandhi’s closest allies sent a letter to the judge that Congress would not object to the opening up of Babri Mosque. It is pertinent to mention during the barbarous act of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992, Congress was in power with its Prime Minister Narasimha Rao at the helm.
The former head of India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB), Maloy Krishna Dhar, wrote in his book Open Secrets, that he was directed to provide security to the meeting held by Sangh Parivar where the demolition of Babri Masjid was planned. Tapes of the meeting were then provided to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who implicitly approved the plot. The radicalisation of Indian society did not stop with the demolition of the Babri Masjid; the spread of hatred against Muslims continued unabated. A primary school mathematics textbook in India has a question for the students: ‘If 15 Kar Sevaks (Hindu volunteers) demolish the Babri Mosque in 300 days, how many Kar Sevaks will it take to demolish in 15 days?’ This shows just how well-orchestrated and wide-reaching the campaign of hatred exists on the state level against minorities in general and Muslims in particular.
Moreover, the hatred is not only against Muslims but also against other religious minorities such as Christians and Sikhs. Aakar Patel, in his book Our Hindu Rashtra: What it is. How We Got Here writes: ‘Documented attacks against Christians rose from 127 in 2014 to 142 in the later year. It reached 292 in 2018 and 328 in 2019. It was 279 in 2020 and 486 in 2021.” The elevation of these figures during the Modi-led BJP is alarming and presents a bleak picture where the rights of religious minorities are severely compromised. Likewise, the Citizenship Act 2019 passed in December 2019 was another biased initiative where India had to grant citizenship to six persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, except Muslims, BBC reported on December 12, 2019. Arundhati Roy, one of the top human rights activists in India, told Scroll.in., ‘These laws are breaking the back of the constitution.’
Furthermore, the Modi-led BJP government unilaterally revoked articles 370 and 35A in August 2019 which abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. When Kashmiris came out to protest while demanding their fundamental constitutional rights, a curfew was imposed for an indefinitely and cruelly prolonged period, and an unprecedented communication blackout existed from August 2019 to February 2021. Similarly, all political leaders were under house arrest in the valley. Above all, a demographic change is underway by the Modi government in the Kashmir valley. Hence, be it the trail of events encouraging RSS members to demolish the Babri Mosque, attacks against Christians, Muslims, and other minorities, or the revocation of articles 370 and 35A — India is far from the secularism that its constitution provides in theory. The fascist tactics of the BJP against minorities are leading India toward a communal conflict that will have disastrous consequences for India and the whole region.
Zafar Iqbal Yusufzai is a Researcher at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Lahore, Pakistan. He may be reached at [email protected]