THE recent verdict in which a federal Indian court has absolved some of the top guns of the ruling BJP of any involvement in the 1992 destruction of Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid is extremely disturbing, though not unexpected.

Much before the Mughal-era mosque was brought down by a Hindu mob in a violent, vulgar display of majoritarian power, the BJP had been calling for the mosque to be replaced by a Ram mandir. In 1992, the Hindu far right got its wish as the mosque was soon turned to rubble as zealots razed it, while earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundations for the mandir as all legal hurdles standing in its way were cleared.

The latest court decision only strengthens perceptions that under the BJP’s watch even the judiciary does not have the resolve to call out the forces of Hindutva.

Clichéd as it may sound, the Babri Masjid demolition was actually the beginning of the end of Indian secularism, with the Nehruvian dream replaced by the nightmarish vision of the Sangh Parivar where all those falling outside the ideological fold — particularly Muslims — were relegated to the margins of national life. Going back to the latest verdict, the acquittal of L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and other leading lights of the Sangh Parivar flies in the face of justice.

The Lucknow court said there was no conspiracy to demolish the mosque. However, in 1990, Mr Advani had launched an infamous ‘yatra’ “to seek legitimacy for the Mandir movement,” indicating that destruction of the masjid was very much on the Hindutva agenda. Moreover, a former judge who had headed a commission that investigated the Ayodhya debacle for 17 years said that there was “ample evidence” linking the aforementioned leaders to the crime.

However, facts matter little in the Sangh Parivar’s scheme of things; brute force, distorted history and violence are the tools the shock troops of Hindutva use to silence all opposition. Even state institutions seem to be afraid of speaking the truth. Last year, the Indian supreme court had paved the way for a Hindutva victory while allowing a temple to be built at the Babri site, and calling for an “alternative site” to be given to Muslims for a mosque.

The Babri destruction was a harbinger of much darker things to come. Today’s India, where Muslims are lynched on suspicions of consuming beef, where the community is asked to prove its citizenship or be prepared to be disenfranchised, and where the Indian military machine punishes the people of held Kashmir with great barbarity, is in fact a country fashioned by those who were instrumental in bringing down the mosque. If the country continues on this grim trajectory, very soon Muslims and other minorities may be transformed into a permanent underclass and denied all fundamental rights.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2020

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