Twenty five years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, The Wire, through a series of articles and videos captures how the act of destruction changed India forever.
The demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 is often seen as an attack on Muslims by the Hindus, but what happened on that tragic day was actually an assault on this country’s secular fabric and the constitution. While there is no denying that the destruction of the mosque terrorised India’s Muslims like never before, it also deprived secularism of the legitimacy it once enjoyed.
The tearing down of the mosque in Ayodhya was an attack on the very idea of India. When India and Pakistan gained independence, both the countries had different ideas towards nationhood. While Pakistan symbolises an Islamic state, India stood for secularism. December 6 was an attempt to bridge the gap between the two ideas, and the process is still on.
The event pained all Indians alike, not just the Muslims. Jagan Nath Azad, a famous Urdu poet and the author of the first national anthem of Pakistan, was forced to migrate to India after the Partition, leaving his job as an editor of an Urdu daily. Partition affected him deeply, which can be seen in his poetry, yet he always adhered to secularism.
On that fateful day, Azad was flying from Jammu to Delhi. He writes that a co-passenger informed him that a dome of Babri mosque had been demolished. This news pained him deeply and he wrote a three-stanza poem while onboard. Upon reaching the home of his son he was informed that the mosque had been completely razed. Engulfed in anguish he wrote further stanzas to the poem, one which helps us understand the shock and sadness that all Indians – Hindus and Muslims alike – felt.
Ye tune Hind ki hurmat ke aaine ko toda hai
Khabar bhi hai tujhe Masjid ka gumbad todne wale
Humare dil ko toda hai imaarat ko nahi toda
Khabaasat ki bhi had hoti hai had todne wale
(What you have broken is the image of reverence of India
Do you have this idea, you who have broken the dome of the mosque
Not the building but our hearts have been broken
Your wickedness is limitless)
For Azad, this destruction harmed not just Islam but also Hinduism. Being a Hindu himself, he feels that this act shamed the whole religion. At an international stage, India lost its reputation of being secular. He writes:
Tere is fael se Islam ka to kuch nahi bigda
Magar ghonpa hai khanjar tu ne Hindu dharm ke dil me
Idhar Hindustaan ka chehra tune maskh kar dala
Udhar boye hain tu ne kaante is ki raah-e-manzil me
(Your deed has not harmed Islam a bit
But you have stabbed a knife into the heart of Hindu religion
You have mutilated the face of India
you have grown thorns in its path to progress)
Just as several have pointed that there is no place for the Hindutva brand of politics in Hinduism as a religion, Azad too says to those who torn down Babri that they failed to understand the true meaning of Hinduism. For him, those who grasp the Hindu ethos of self and God cannot commit such a heinous crime.
Tujhe kuch bhi kahbar iski nahi ae badnaseeb insaan
Ke Hindu dharm kya hai aur us ki atma kya hai
Nahi hai dharm wo hargiz jise tu dharm kehta hai
Tujhe kya ilm kya hai atma parmatma kya hai
(O unfortunate man you have no idea
What is Hindu religion and its soul
What you call religion is not the religion
You have no knowledge about the self and the God)
In the next part of the poem, he points out that the pain of the knowledge that one dome has been demolished was unbearable but now the news that the whole mosque has been razed will not let him live. He sees it as an attack on the Indian culture, which shaped itself through centuries of assimilation.
Khabar kal tak bas itni thi ke gumbad ek tuta hai
Khuli ab baat Masjid ka nahi chodha nishaan baqi
Wo tehzibi tasalsul jo tha jari char sadiyo se
Tu samjha hai na reh payegi us ki dastaan baqi?
(Till yesterday I knew of one dome being destroyed
Now I have come to know that the whole mosque has been razed
Cultural bonding that is continuing for four centuries
Do you think that it will be destroyed?)
Main ek gumbad ko rota tha magar ab ye khula mujh par
Gira dala hai is sari ibadat gaah ko tu ne
Diya tha ek dil-e-agah tujh ko dene wale ne
Ye kis raste pe dala hai dil-e-agah ko tune?
(I was mourning the demolition of a single dome
But you have razed the complete prayer house
God bestowed upon you an intelligent mind
For what purpose are you using this mind?)
Azad reiterates that for a Hindu, mosque and temple both are the abode of God and the people who think otherwise are directed by political motives. He calls this politics of hate.
Khuda ka ghar hai Mandir bhi khuda ka ghar hai Masjid bhi
Mujhe to mere Hindu dharm ne bas ye sikhaya hai
Nahi hai dharm hargiz wo faqat andhi siyasat hai
Tujhe tera ye dars-e-shaitaniyat tujh ko padhaya hai
(Mosque and temple both are the abode of God
My Hindu religion has taught me only this much
This is not religion but the politics of hate
You have been taught a satanic lesson)
He further points out that the criminals will not go unpunished and karma will teach them the lesson.
Khuda ke ghar ko jab tu munhadam karne ko nikla tha
Khuda jane tere dil me khayal-e-kham kya tha
Makafat-e-amal kehte hain jis ko ek haqiqat hai
Shaqi alqalb kya kahiye tera anjaam kya hoga
(When you set out to destroy the abode of God
God knows what were you thinking
Retribution of act is a reality
O wretched heart, think about your fate)
Azad hopes that while a few people are trying to vitiate the secular environment of the nature majority of this country is secular. People of the nation will undo this crime and heal the wounds. He shows an immense faith in this land and the people who live here.
Ye Masjid aaj bhi zinda hai ahl-e-dil ke siino me
Khabar bhi tujhe hai Masjid ka paikar todne wale
Abhi ye sar-zameen khali nahi hai nek bando se
Abhi maujud hain tuute hue dil jodne wale
(This mosque is still intact in the hearts
Do you have this idea, destroyer of the structure of mosque
This country is not yet empty of good people
People who heals the wounds of heart, still reside here)
Azad wrote another poem with the same title ‘Babri Masjid’ which reveals his anger towards those who destroyed the mosque. His entire life he upheld the idea of a secular India against a theocratic Pakistan but felt that with this act he had been proven wrong. He writes:
Tune ae Azad ! sari umr jo kuch bhi kaha
Tune ae Azad ! sari umr jo kuch bhi likha
Ahmaqo ne ek pal me kar diya barbad use
(O Azad ! whatever you have spoken
O Azad ! whatever you have written
Silly fellows destroyed in a moment)
Tu to kehta tha zulmat raat ki jaane ko hai
Tu to kehta tha vatan me subah-e-nau ane ko hai
Kya yahi vo subh-e-nau hai
Jis pe tujh ko naaz tha, jis par raha tujh ko ghurur
Dekh aaina teri tehzeeb ka hai chur chur
(You used to tell that darkness of the night is about to end
You used to tell that a new dawn is awaiting the nation
Is it that new dawn
Of which you were proud
Look, mirror of your civilisation has shattered into pieces)
While reading his two poems on the destruction of Babri Masjid one can gauge his immense faith in Hinduism and belief that a true Hindu can never perform such an act. His belief in the idea of India and the faith that such people are in minority also stands out.
What followed the event shows that he wasn’t wrong. India, with almost 80% Hindu population, rejected the BJP’s divisive politics after the demolition of Babri Masjid. On December 6, 1992, four states had BJP in power. In the elections that followed, the party was voted out in three, while all other states saw a significant decrease in its vote share. Next general elections also could not get the BJP a majority or a government. His poems speak the language of the majority of the Indians.
Saquib Salim is an independent socio-political commentator and a historian.