Meanwhile check this and links to series of 6 articles below
QA: The Legacy of Babri Masjid
In the communal violence and riots that broke out afterward, hundreds died, shaking the secular foundation of modern India.
The event was the culmination of years of religious campaigns to build a temple dedicated to Lord Ram at the place that many Hindus believed was the deity’s birthplace but that many Muslims contended was always a mosque.
As The Wall Street Journal’s six-part series explored last year, the modern dispute over the place began with the events of the night of Dec.22, 1949, when local Hindu devotees in Ayodhya placed idols inside the Babri Masjid, effectively turning an erstwhile mosque into a temple.
The dispute that ensued between representatives of Hindu and Muslim communities over the Babri Masjid site has spanned more than six decades and is now pending before the Supreme Court.
In a book “Ayodhya: The Dark Night,” published late last year by Harper Collins, authors Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha examined what led to the events of Dec. 22, 1949. In an email interview with The Wall Street Journal, they discussed the ideas behind the book and the impact of the mosque’s demolition 21 years ago on today’s India. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
The Wall Street Journal: What inspired you to write the book?
Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K. Jha: It all began immediately after the Allahabad High Court’s judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute on Sept. 30, 2010. In the beginning, we were searching for the buried narrative of Abhiram Das, the man whose action on the night of Dec. 22, 1949 has had such a long-lasting impact on the nation, its politics and society, and yet about whom almost nothing was known except that he was a sadhu, a Hindu holyman, of Ayodhya. We had no inkling till then about the larger conspiracy behind the surreptitious planting of the idol of Lord Ram in the Babri Masjid that night. It was only a few weeks later while talking to Abhiram Das’s youngest brother, Upendranath Mishra, and his cousin, Awadh Kishore Jha, in their native village of Rarhi in Darbhanga district of Bihar that we got the first hint of the real story. The conspiracy that was slowly emerging was too shocking to be believed, and it soon led us to Mumbai to interview Indushekhar Jha, another cousin who followed Abhiram Das inside the Babri Masjid that night, to Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh for a chat with Rajendra Singh, son of Gopal Singh Visharad, a Hindu Mahasabha leader in Faizabad, and many more destinations with a clear objective to dig out the larger story.
WSJ: What led Abhiram Das and others to install Lord Ram’s statue inside the Babri
Ms. And Mr. Jha: The installation of the idol meant different things to different people who participated in placing it in the Babri Masjid.
It meant one thing for Abhiram Das, the Hindu Mahasabha’s enthusiastic member who actually led a band of Hindu communalists inside the mosque that fateful night, and something quite different to Mahant Digvijai Nath, one of the party’s top leaders who plotted the operation and saw it through. The different sections of vairagis, or sadhus, who directly or indirectly participated in the operation, also did so for different reasons and with different goals.
For Abhiram Das, the installation of the idol was a way of helping a group of sadhus, the Nirvani akhara, gain control over Ayodhya. Mr. Das was himself a prominent sadhu in this sect.
For Mahant Digvijai Nath, the Hindu Mahasabha leader, placing the idol in the mosque was a means to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh and perhaps in the whole of north India. He and other top leaders of the party saw the installation of the idol as a vehicle to change the destiny of the nation at a time when the old regime of the British had ended, and the new regime, to be heralded with the promulgation of the new constitution, was yet to formally take over.
On the other hand, the goal of the vairagis of the Nirmohi akhara, a separate sect of sadhus from the group Mr. Das was a member of, was very different. They already worshipped a small wooden platform with an idol of Ram in the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid and participated in the buildup before and after the installation of the idol inside the mosque. To them, this was an opportunity to expand the area they controlled from the fringe of the Babri Masjid complex to the very heart of the mosque.
WSJ: The Hindu-Muslim conflict over the Babri Masjid site predated Dec.22, 1949. Had the idol not been installed in the Babri Masjid that night, do you think the trajectory of that conflict, and that of India as an independent nation, would have been entirely different?
Ms. And Mr. Jha: The present dispute over the mosque emanates primarily from the installation of the idol of Lord Ram inside Babri Masjid on the night of Dec. 22, 1949. All moves before that night had sought to construct a temple at Ramchabutara, an elevated wooden platform outside the inner courtyard of the mosque. Till then it was this platform that was considered the Janmabhoomi, or birthplace, of Lord Ram. Only after the idol was planted inside the mosque did the demand for converting Babri Masjid into a temple enter the legal and later the political arena. Had the idol not been installed in the mosque that night, the conflict might still have continued but it would not have been as Babri Masjid-centric as it is today. The wooden platform, which was located about fifty feet away from the mosque, might have been the real focal point. And had it been the focal point, it is difficult to say how history would then have unfolded.
This is not to say that the trajectory of India as an independent nation would have been bereft of communalism had the idol not been installed in the mosque that night. For the chances are that the communalists, to whom religion matters only so long as it can be used for politically and socially divisive purposes, might still have found some other pretexts to further their objectives.
WSJ: What’s the message of Dec.6, 1992, and why is it relevant to India today?
Ms. And Mr. Jha: The events of December 6, 1992 are the symbol of the most serious assault on the Indian state, one that shook its basic character. The wound caused has festered ever since, even though the nation’s secular fabric ultimately withstood this assault, and the attempt to divide the nation on communal lines failed. Had it not taken place, the country would not have suffered the kind of trauma it did in the following decades – that of sharing the sin and anguish of razing down a prayer place. The mosque and the temple are both contributing streams in our rich cultural heritage. One without the other is incomplete. Their coexistence – as also of the religious places of other communities – is the only way to guarantee secularism in the country. December 6 thus remains a reminder of how Hindu communalists sought to trample on the soul of the nation and how in the end the inherent strength of the nation’s composite culture won.
Follow India Real Time on Twitter @WSJIndia. Follow Krishna @pokharelkrishna.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.