We can’t let Hindu nationalists rewrite India’s history remembering dark pages in India’s history.


Eyewitness: “Babri Masjid demolition: The most comprehensive video coverage from 1992” PHOTO/Screenshot/Business Standard via YouTube

The fault lines were sharp and deep that December 1992 when for nine days the urbs prima of India, hailed for its cosmopolitanism, saw this veneer shredded—painfully. All of December, including Christmas and New Year celebrations, public temper in Bombay was fragile, as the ill-intended maha-aarti program launched by the far right (Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party) combined released a fresh bout of hate that again spilled into violence against the Muslim ‘other.’ This is what led to the violence of January 1993, where for another nine days, at least, there was violence instigated by the Saamna, the daily newspaper and mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena (SS), ensuring that homes and properties were targeted with chilling precision.

Officially, 900 people were killed in mob rioting and firing by the police, 2,036 were injured and thousands internally displaced. Three rapes were reported and registered. According to the People’s Verdict, a staggering 141 incidents took place in 1992 and 1,411 in January 1993. The People’s Verdict was a 160-page report of a citizen’s inquiry headed by two retired judges of the Bombay High Court: Justices S.M. Daud and Hosbet Suresh. It visited affected communities and recorded voluminous evidence. The report was released in July 1993.

It’s been 25 years, a quarter of a century ago, since Bombay burned. The demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in Faizabad Ayodhya (the political program for the demolition of the mosque began in 1986 and ended with the demolition on Dec. 6, 1992) was the immediate and formal provocation. But as the meticulous documentation by citizens for, first, the People’s Verdict, and second, the petition seeking an First Information Report (FIR) against Bal Thackeray in the Bombay High Court and thereafter corroborated by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission revealed, the public temper had been kept on the boil by hate-filled provocative writings on the pages of the Saamna since July of 1992. The Congress government led by Sudhakarrao Naik chose to let these crimes pass, the Bombay police chose not to act, and the rest are dark pages in India’s history.

The official commission report took five years to complete and was released in February 1998. In the interim period (1995-1999), the same forces indicted by the Commission for fomenting the violence rode to power and ruled the state of Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999. They attempted to disband the commission that was restored to its functioning in June 1996. Again, following the victory of Hindu-supremacist BJP in the May 2014 general elections in India, Maharashtra has seen the return of a far-right government, headed by the BJP. Twenty-five years ago, the BJP had been a junior party of the saffron alliance in the state.

It was the vicious campaign unleashed by LK Advani-led Rath Yatra to demolish the Babri Mosque that had set the stage for what was to follow. Periodic and repeated retaliatory incitements by minority communal outfits had ensured that within the larger picture of a targeted anti-minority pogrom, vicious killings of Hindus by Muslim criminals (stabbings in the later part of December) ensured that the communal pot was kept on the boil. History had been manipulated in the public domain to create a mass hate perception against India’s largest religious minority, the Muslims. The term Babur kiaulad (sons of the Mughal king Babur, who had built the mosque in Ayodhya) was popularized as a villificatory term.

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