Hindu fanatics have intensified their efforts to erect a temple on the site of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya that was destroyed by a Hindu mob six years ago. Krishan Lal Sharma, a spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on June 16 that if the court ruling went against construction of the temple on the mosque site, the government will change the law through parliament.
Basudev Acharya, a communist member of the Indian parliament was quoted by the Press Trust of India on June 13: ‘The temple is being constructed in pieces, with stone-cutting going on in a planned manner.’ A week earlier, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had denied any knowledge of such activity. But Indian duplicity is legendary.
The judicial inquiry into the destruction of the sixteenth century mosque, meanwhile, is getting nowhere. Session judge Jagdish Prasad Srivastava heading the judicial probe in Lucknow, has had little success in bringing the culprits to justice. In the past eight months, Srivastava has failed even to get the accused to appear before his court. His last summons for a May 22 court appearance was contemptuously dismissed by the accused. The hapless court is no match for the ruling godfathers in India, who were responsible for the destruction of the mosque in the first place. In December 1992, Hindu fanatics of the now ruling party, the BJP, and its allies Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), razed the monument to the ground. Leading the mob were the central leadership of the BJP and Shiv Sena. The Hindu extremists contend that the Babri mosque was built on the site where the Hindu god Rama was born. Lal Krishna Advani, home minister in the BJP government, coined the slogan: ‘We will construct our temple at the very place where Ram was born.’ Two other temples in Ayodhya already claim to be the sites of Rama’s birth!
Riding on a rath - a replica of Ram’s horse-driven buggy - Advani and others led the mob to the Babri mosque and demolished it. The Hindu mob then went on a communal frenzy killing more than 3,000 Muslims across India. In Ayodhya and other cities, thousands of Muslim properties were destroyed. More than five years later, displaced Muslims are still living in shanty camps. Successive Indian governments have paid scant attention to the legitimate demands of victims for compensation. It is highly unlikely that the court in Lucknow will be able to do any better. Accused are Advani and two colleagues in the central cabinet - Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati - along with other 46 rightwing Hindu fascists.
The BJP leaders have defied summons from the court repeatedly over the last eight months. Judge Srivastava, however, framed criminal charges against them following a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charge sheet. They have been charged with dacoity, defiling a place of worship, and promoting enmity on the basis of religion.
Some of the accused in the Babri mosque case have filed a review petition in the Allahabad High Court challenging the session court’s summons. They contend that the CBI has not named any individual directly for the mosque demolition. They also contend that Advani and Kalyan Singh (then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state) ‘had promised the construction of a temple, not the destruction of the mosque.’
These arguments are preposterous and absurd. Both Advani and Bal Thackeray, a Shiv Sena leader, have been captured on video inciting Hindu zealots to destroy the mosque. The temple could not be built without destroying the mosque.
The courts have become a refuge for right-wing extremists in India. The high courts have issued controversial stay orders against inquiries into the mosque’s destruction. Earlier M S Liberhan was appointed to inquire into the role of Kalyan Singh and UP state bureaucrats in the Babri mosque destruction and its gory aftermath. A stay order from a higher court ended the inquest. The courts have subsequently rejected all attempts to lift the stay order, thus preventing any investigation of the Hindus’ crime. With the BJP now in power, it is highly unlikely that those responsible for the desecration will ever be brought to justice. The court proceedings at Lucknow are just a smoke-screen to prevent a backlash from the minority Muslim community who still believe that they will be compensated for the loss of life and property.
It is not the first time that an inquiry into the massacre of innocent Muslims has failed to identify the culprits. In February 1983, 1,800 Muslims were slaughtered by the ‘fighters’ of Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) in the hamlet of Babri Islambasti (Nellie), 70 kilometres from Guwahati. The courts took notice of the massacre and took up 11 suo motto cases. Two years later, when the AGP came to power in Assam in 1985, the courts dropped all eleven cases. The only official response to the murders of 1,800 Muslims was the suspension of two junior police constables. Meanwhile, Hindu zealots are busy constructing parts for the temple to be moved to the Babri mosque site at a suitable date. Some 52 of the planned 212 pillars have already been constructed at a workshop located a few kilometres from Ayodhya. Stones for the temple are being excavated at Tindwara, Rajastan. The BJP leadership is waiting for the right moment to order construction of the temple at the mosque site. It appears that the temple will be made of prefabricated material, ready to be assembled over night.
The mass murderers of Babri Islambasti have been wandering free for after 18 years. Little more can be expected of the judicial inquest into the desecration of the Babri mosque and subsequent massacres of Muslims. Is it too much to expect justice from a Hindu court?
Muslimedia: July 1-15, 1998