By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI–Fourteen years ago, swept by communal rhetoric indulged in by extremist elements, thousands of Hindus passionately participated in demolishing the Babri Masjid (Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh).
The headlines in the western media painted it as an act of Hindu terrorism. The demolition-phase was also the period when practically the entire nation was engulfed by communal riots. This was in keeping with extremist elementsâ€™ agenda then pursued, that of forming a Hindu India and, among other plans, constructing a temple at the site. Thus, questions were raised across the country and world about Indian secularism and the future of Muslims in the country.
Some extremists have not yet abandoned their plan of politically exploiting the Ayodhya-issue. This was displayed by the pandemonium raised in the Parliament, last week on 6th December, the 14th anniversary of demolition of Babri Masjid. The din raised in both Houses of Parliament by parliamentarians led to their adjournment without transacting any business except that of the question hour in Rajya Sabha. It was fairly obvious from the start, in the Lok Sabha, that the Ayodhya issue would dominate the day. Displaying their intentions, Shiv Sena–associates of Sangh Parivar–sported saffron scarves. Carrying placards, legislators belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena shouted slogans such as: â€œJai Shri Ram, Mandir waheen banayengeâ€ (Hail Ram, we will construct temple at the same spot) and â€œRam naam se sharmate, Afzal ko gale lagateâ€ (Shying from chanting Ram, they embrace Afzal).
Countering them, members belonging to Samajwadi Party (SP), Left bloc, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and some Congress members raised anti-BJP slogans. Some of these members also demanded the punishment of those guilty of demolition and the arrest of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Though Speaker Somnath Chatterjee tried conducting function in this din, before lunch, Lok Sabha was adjourned twice and later for the day.
Similar was the scene in Rajya Sabha, where trouble began from the zero hour leading to an adjournment. Amar Singh (SP) raised the issue, which prompted the BJP and Shiv Sena members to storm into the well, shouting â€œJai Shri Ramâ€ (Hail Ram). Rather than remain mute, spectators, SP, RJD and Left members also rushed into the well, trying to shout down BJP-Shiv Sena members. Chaotic scenes prevailed when the House re-assembled after lunch leading to its adjournment for the day.
Later, strongly criticizing BJP members for coming to Lok Sabha with placards displaying their intention to construct the temple at Ayodhya, the government asked them to clarify their stand. â€œIt is total negation of collective declaration of NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which promised to abide by Supreme Court on the Ayodhya issue. It just exposed their hollowness that before every election, they raise Ayodhya issue…. It is L.K. Advaniâ€™s and Rajnath Singhâ€™s duty to answer today if they stand by the party that a temple will be constructed there (at the disputed site),â€ Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will not give any support to the saffron party to exploit the â€œpassion, commotion and emotionsâ€ and divide the society ahead of assembly elections in the state of UP, Dasmunsi asserted. UP assembly elections are due early next year.
Parliamentarians belonging to SP, the Left bloc and RJD also staged a sit-in outside the Parliament, demanding arrest of those responsible for demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992. Left bloc leaders, including Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist) alongwith those belonging to SP â€“ Jaya Bachchan, Amar Singh and Mohan Singh, participated in this demonstration. They held placards and shouted slogans like- â€œDown, down communalismâ€ and â€œPunish culprits of Babri demolition.â€ Participants asked the government to take immediate steps to arrest BJP members charged for demolition of the mosque, including leader of the opposition Advani.
It may be noted, that while Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Shiv Sena had decided to observe the day as Shaurya Diwas (Victory Day), several Muslim organizations chose to mark it as Yaum-e-Gam (Day of Sorrow). Without doubt, elaborate security arrangements were made in Ayodhya to prevent any untoward incident from happening. However, the day across the country passed peacefully with there being barely any trace of it being 14th anniversary of demolition of Babri Masjid. People carried on with their routine/professional tasks as on any other day.
Over the past decade and a half, the country has been witness to communal incidents targeting Muslims, the most traumatic of which was the Gujarat-carnage. Yet, it would be erroneous to state that Indian secularism does not exist. As this journalist has expressed in a recent book on Ayodhya, the revolutionary growth of communication technology has made the common Indian all the more cautious about communal rhetoric by extremist elements. Now, even when communal rhetoric enters the living room of the common Indian through the small screen, the general trend is not to be carried away by the same. This is a small but definite sign of secularism in India being a permanent feature, which though occasionally shaken by communal elements, can never be stamped out.