Dr Jay Dubashi
The first meeting of BJP’s National Executive to be held after the fall of the Babri Mosque should have been a joyous affair, but for some reason, it was not. Atal Behari Vajpayee seemed to be somewhat morose, not his usual cheerful self. We were all watching him and found him unusually quiet, lost in thought. Was it Ayodhya, or was it something else? We asked ourselves but could not find an answer.
Atalji always spoke at the end of every National Executive meeting, and we all looked forward to his peroration this time too. But somehow his heart was not in it. He spoke a few words, in his usual style, but his remarks were marked by long silences, as if he was looking for right words, or was somewhat distracted and could not find them.
In the end, Atalji just broke down, or looked as if he was breaking down. I was sitting a few seats away from him and approached him with a glass of water. Atalji took it, had a sip, smiled at me, but went back to his silence. Most of us had never seem him in that condition before and were perplexed, and also somewhat melancholy at the sight of a great leader struggling for words. Most of us were too dazed to say or do anything and kept mum. Some of us made another attempt to offer him water – and somebody asked for coffee – but he did not take it, pushed his papers away, rose from his seat and left the meeting half way.
He was out in less than half a minute and as we all watched him, he walked out of the door and disappeared down the stairs.
I give these details, because it is necessary to realise how different people reacted to the Babri incident. Some took it in their stride and betrayed no emotion. Either they expected it or were not too much concerned about it. Most of us were moved by the spectacle but were doing our best to hide our emotions. It was obvious that Atal ji was overwhelmed by it and simply gave way to his emotions.
Some of us rushed after him – Malkani amog them – but it was too late. Whe we reached his house – he lived at 1, Raisina Road, opposite Press Club of India and Chelmsford Club – we found him taking tea and going through newspapers. He looked at us as it nothing had happened and offered us tea. It was all over and Atalji behaved as normally as he could, through he did not return to the meeting. When we went back, the storm had passed, and it was all normal again.
Some people might say, and some did so, that Atalji was out of step with the party’s feelings in the matter, perhaps the only leader who was unhappy with the events of the past few days. Had he expressed his feelings to other senior leaders before the Babri collapse? Perhaps he did but he was a little secretive about it. In any case, he was not quite in line with the innermost instincts of the movement, and therefore with the party’s fundamental ethos. But, for reasons of his own, he had always kept his thoughts to himself and never aired them in the public.
My diary of 1993 is full of entries about all kinds of meetings and seminars in India as well as abroad, but there is no mention of Ayodhya again, except for an entry on 7th December 1993: Advani, Joshi and others arrested in Lucknow. Nineteen ninety three was obviously a great year for arrests, mainly related to Ayodhya, maybe because Ayodhya had become more or less a routine matter by then, with people getting arrested and released, as it in a pantomime, with actors coming, doing their act, and going, while the spectators laughed and made merry.
But, not, it seems outside India, where it became and remained a matter of great historic significance, as it undoubtedly was, though some of us did not recognise it at the time. It became as potent as the fall of the Berlin Wall while had preceded it by three years and twenty days. The Berlin Wall came down, or was hacked down, on 9th November 1989, and the Ayodhya domes were pulled down on 6th December 1992. The three years between these two great events were marked by tremendous convolutions of global significance, for they shaped the history of the world for all time to come, just as the French Revolution had done in 1789, that is, two hundred years before, almost to the day.
It all came in a succession of dates: First, the Berlin Wall came down in a shower of bricks on 9th November 1989. Less than two years later, on 24th August 1991 the Bolshevik era collapsed, and with it the last vestiges of the hated Soviet empire. A year and a few months later, the Babri mosque came down in a heap of mud and rubble, marking the beginning of the end of the remains of the Moghul empire, equally hated by Hindus, it not by others. Thus, in a short span of three years, remains of two hated empires were turned to dust and buried for ever. It sounds too good to be true.
I went to Ayodhya a month after the domes tumbled. I wish I had done so before they disappeared from sight in clouds of dust, though I am not too unhappy. It is given to few men to witness the death of empires. We Hindus, who have suffered, though not silently, the yoke of several alien empires for a thousand years, must be pleased at the turn of the wheel, and history reversing itself.
I was in Berlin in 1984 and climbed the few steps to what was then known as Checkpoint Charlie, the top of the Berlin wall, behind which, on the other side, lurked the Soviet army with bayonets pointed at us. I could even see the eyes of some of the Soviet soldiers, most of them young boys, dragged away from their schools to do Stalin’s dirty work. I felt no pity for them, but had no idea, that it would all be over five years later – the schoolboy army would go home, and the local population leap over the ruins of the Wall to join their friends and relations to the other side. I have not been there again, just as I have not been to Ayodhya again, after that first visit in 1993, … though I wish to. I am glad the domes in Ayodhya and the brick wall in Berlin have gone for ever!
(This is the third in a series of articles on the Ayodhya Movement.)