Dr Jay Dubashi
It was, I think, a Sunday when it happened. In fact, I am sure it was a Sunday – it was actually a Sunday, December 6, 1992 – as I was at home, and fast asleep in the afternoon, when I was woken up by my wife, Meera, who simply said, “It’s gone. I had no idea what she was talking about, and who or what had gone, so I asked her what was the problem. “Your Ayodhya thing is gone,” she said, from the other bed room where she was watching TV.
It struck me that she might be talking about the decrepit structure in Ayodhya, the so-called Babri mosque, which had been much in the news for the previous months, and even years. Has the mosque fallen? I asked myself and went to the other room where the screen showed jublilant crowds watching several young men in shorts clambering over the domes of the mosque with rods and hammers – and some with bamboos – and there was so much dust, and, of course, din, that one had to peer through the fog to make out what was happening.
First, one of the smaller domes came down, not so much a dome as its skeletal remains. Then, a second one, followed by a central dome, the biggest of them, though by the time, the young men had finished with their hammers and rods, and, of course, long ropes, not much had remained of the so-called mosque. The whole thing came down with a thud, or a series of thuds, and of course big clouds of dust, as the young men held on to the ropes and swung from one parapet to another, like skilled mountaineers on the Everest, and the crowds cheered them, including some of the men and women who had gathered a few furlongs away, atop a squat building, apparently to watch the show. Some of them were political leaders, and I knew many or nearly all of them, and I had been told by some of these leaders to remain in Delhi and keep an eye on the office (meaning the central office of the BJP at 11 Ashok a Road) while they themselves had decamped to Ayodhya on a move that would shake the world and cause political earthquakes in the Muslim world from time to time.
My initial reaction was one of joy, and, of course, great relief. Finally, the domes had come down and the young men had done what the older voluble so-called leaders dared not attempt. The domes had come down, and with them the entire dilapidated structure put up by an alien force of invaders, though it was not really a mosque, for nobody had prayed there for years, and there was actually a temple inside it. Now that the whole mess had been cleared once and for all, a chapter in history had come to an end – or perhaps a new chapter had opened, which is what always happens in history, for nothing really has a swift end, and everyone was relieved, including those who said it was a mosque, and had apparently been built over a temple, as most mosques in India and elsewhere were built by arrogant invaders, but this one had been put up by a commander of Babar. The man from Kabul, who had come through the Khyber Pass to establish what later became the Moghul empire.
Ayodhya, therefore, has a direct link with the conquest of India by Muslims. It was perhaps the first of the mosques to be erected over a Hindu temple, whatever history says or does not say, and the beginning of the attempt to Islamise Hindu India, an attempt that had first begun at the turn of the last millennium (around 1000 AD) and later again half a millennium before Babar’s arrival in India. Ayodhya was the starting point of the biggest organised attempt to Islamise India, and its fall or collapse, like the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany on November 9, 1989, three years before the fall of the so-called mosque in Ayodhya, marks the beginning of a new era in India and the beginning of the end of Islamic hegemony in India, just as the fall of the Berlin wall marks the beginning of the end of the communist hegemony in Europe. Ayodhya is to India what the Berlin Wall was to Europe, though Ayodhya is only the beginning of a chapter in history while the Berlin Wall marks the end of another chapter that began in 1917, or perhaps nearly a century before that with the publication of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto in 1848.
I kept a diary from time to time, with some cryptic entries, some of which are undecipherable. The entries for Ayodhya are just three or four lines:
Sunday, December 6, 1992: Babri Masjid demolished.
Tuesday, December 8, 1992: Advani and Joshi arrested. Advani arrested at home; Joshi in office. Meeting at 11 Ashoka Road, before arrest.
Joshi refers to Murli Manohar Joshi, who was BJP president at the time, and Advani, of course, to Lal Krishna Advani, who had preceded Joshi in the post, and who was the prime mover behind Ayodhya movement. I happened to be close to both of them. At the time of the arrest, after a meeting in Ashoka Road, Joshi seemed a little nervous, but he didn’t show it. Most of us who attended the meeting before the arrest, accompanied Joshi right to the front door, partly as a gesture of defiance and partly, of course, to bid him farewell and to give him moral support. A police vehicle was waiting for him. it took me back to the Emergency night, when a couple of vehicles were found waiting outside my house in Safdarjung Enclave, long before the police knocked at the door to arrest me. I had, of course, escaped by the back door – I have a feeling the police knew what I was up to, but they looked the other way – by the time they knocked. But that is another story.
We had, of course, no idea where Joshi was being taken, and whether Advani had already been arrested. We also had no idea whether there were others and where the whole lot was being taken. It was early in the morning around eight or eight-thirty and there was little traffic on Ashoka Road, or, for that matter, on other roads, and the entire operation took place, without, as they say, anybody firing a shot!
I recall that we went back to office and naturally, were joined by a crowd that had gathered by then. Delhi is not so much a city as a village, and news gets around very quickly. I thought I would go home, have a bath and perhaps a cup of tea and come back, but we had so many visitors that going home was out of question. We had endless cups of strong coffee and by mid-day it was all quiet, as if the arrests were all in the day’s work, and we could go back to our own duties, such as they were.
(This is the first of a series of articles on the Ayodhya movement.)