By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI â€“ Fifteenth anniversary of Babari Masjidâ€™s demolition last week (December 6) was marked by a mixed reaction across the country. While several Muslim groups held demonstrations demanding reconstruction of the mosque, a few Hindu organizations celebrated the day as their victory. The issue dominated the proceedings in the Parliament, while the people in Ayodhya, where the mosque stood, expressed their desire for peace. With the demolition having led to communal clashes across the country, tight security was maintained particularly in communally sensitive areas. No untoward incidents were reported from any part of the country.
The common people in Ayodhya seem fed up with the way politicians continue to exploit the issue. In their opinion, a permanent solution may help normalcy return to their lives. â€œWe are eager for peace. On any untoward incident, the minority are moved to safer places from here,â€ Mohammed Jameel, a resident of Ayodhya said.
â€œThere should be an end to arson, curfew and road blockages, which affects our daily lives,â€ was the general opinion.
Though the Ayodhya-issue is rated to have created a strong communal divide between Hindus and Muslims, the locals here think otherwise. Despite her husband being killed in post-demolition riots, Anwari said: â€œI cannot even think of leaving the place. Outsiders killed my husband… but it was the support extended by the local people that I am surviving with my five children today.â€ â€œI hope a solution is reached soon, so that further untoward incidents are averted,â€ she said.
There is also the apprehension that a court decision may spark off riots again. â€œThe court will take decision in favor of either party, which is dangerous for the peace and unity here. We want to maintain peace and communal harmony in the city,â€ Nand Kishore Mishra said.
Blaming only the politicians for creating tension, M. Hasan said: â€œThere is no tension between both communities here. It is all because of politicians. We are the same as before.â€
Ruckus was created in the Parliament on the issue in both the Houses. Before the two Houses met at 11 AM (IST), legislators belonging to left parties, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Telegu Desam Party (TDP) had gathered outside the main gate of Parliament. Shouting slogans, demanding punishment for demolishers of Babari Masjid, they held English and Urdu banners, which read: â€œHang the murderers of democracyâ€ and â€œPunish the guilty of Babari Masjidâ€™s demolition.â€
Both the Houses witnessed acrimonious scenes as soon as they met in the morning, leading to repeated adjournments. In the Lok Sabha, SP legislators stormed the well of the House seeking punishment of those responsible for demolition of Babari Masjid. Countering them, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members shouted slogans and tried raising the Nandigram issue. Joining the din, Congress legislators demanded action against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who had recently justified killing of a Muslim man in a fake gun battle, which subsequently led to arrest of a senior police officer.
With the House drowned in the din, at first Speaker Somnath Chatterjee adjourned it till noon. When the same drama continued at noon, he adjourned it till 2:00 PM (IST).
Similar scenes were witnessed in the Rajya Sabha, where SP legislators Shahid Siddiqui and Abu Azmi demanded immediate submission of the Liberhans Commission inquiry report, set up in 1993 to probe the mosque demolition.
Though the uproar continued when the two Houses met at 2:00 PM (IST), business was transacted before they were adjourned for the day.
While All India Babari Masjid Re-building Committee (AIBRC) and All-India Muslim Unity Front (AIMUF) held a demonstration in Delhi demanding reconstruction of the mosque, the activists of Shiva Sena celebrated the day as â€œVijay Divasâ€ (victory day). Both these groups held demonstrations close to each other at Jantar Mantar. When Shiv Sainiks marched directly towards the demonstration-place of AIBRC and AIMUF, both the groups shouted slogans. The war of words soon turned into clash between them leading to five people being injured. With there being only a few policemen, additional force was rushed to the spot to control the clash. Police resorted to lath charge (use of sticks) to disperse the crowd. Both the organizations resumed their meetings after a little while.
Down south, in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), over 1,200 members of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) staged a demonstration demanding rebuilding of the mosque. Wearing black shirts, the activists raised slogans against the demolition and sought arrests of those responsible. Tight security was observed, with special vigil maintained, and no untoward incident was reported from the area.
The Muslim-majority areas of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) observed a shut down to mark the occasion. Observing the day as â€œblack day,â€ the old city and the commercial hub around Charminar and Makkah Masjid wore a deserted look, with black flags pitched on rooftops and on streets. A group clash broke out between members of two communities when demonstrators tried forcing closure of shops in Medak.
A clash was averted in Lucknow (UP), as over 20 activists of Hindu Mahasabha were detained when they tried disrupting a meeting of Muslim leaders.
Addressing a meeting in Kolkata (West Bengal), marking the 15th anniversary of Babri Masjidâ€™s demolition, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat accused the then Narsimha Rao government of having â€œtacitlyâ€ allowed it. Karat said: â€œNarasimha Rao government tacitly allowed the demolition of Babari Masjid. 20,000 paramilitary forces which were deployed at Ayodhya and Faizabad were given instruction not to act when the mosque was demolished on this day in 1992.â€ Blaming BJP for communally exploiting the crisis to reap electoral gains from the demolition, he said: â€œBabari Mosque demolition is a turning point and the Sangh Parivar is still reaping the consequences.â€