December 6, six years later

December 6 has come to mean different things to various different groups of  Indians. The day ‘kar sevaks’ of the saffron brigade demolished  the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya — in blatant disregard of the assurances given to the Parliament and the Supreme Court of India — is Shourya Divas (Victory day) for the Sangh parivar, while for most Muslims and parties like the Samajwadi Party it is Kalank Divas (Black Day). Since December 6 has also become a metaphor for communal riots that preceded and followed the demolished, and in which thousands of innocent people lost their lives or their entire lives’ earnings, the day is also Shaheed Divas (Martyrs’ Day) for many secular groups.

December 6 this year meant something more. As secular groups (see below) pointed out at a rally in Delhi, “This year, the protests against the destruction of Babri Masjid are taking place under the political regime of those very forces which destroyed the Masjid, were responsible for the ensuing pogroms against the Muslims, and which even today are belligerently celebrating the event in defiance of huge demonstrations of disagreement with their communal policies”. 

Thankfully, the day passed off peacefully. Ironically, the most noteworthy event of the day was the statement from the man who faces trial and may yet go to jail, but is for the moment the Home Minister of India – L.K. Advani. The Chief Architect of the Demolition, the Rath Yatri whose name is inseparable from Ayodhya, while unveiling a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at the CRPF complex in Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh) described what happened on the fateful day six years ago as a “singularly unfortunate” incident. He added that the incident was a setback not only for the party but for himself, too; because, “rightly or wrongly”, he has since got typecast as an ideologically rigid person. 

Remorse? Apparently not, for when asked whether he planned to do something to repair his image, Advani replied: “Why should I?”

Meanwhile, at a rally in Delhi, the All India Babri Masjid Reconstruction Committee, comprising of an assortment of Muslim hardliners, demanded that either the government reconstruct the Babri Masjid on the same spot where it earlier stood or refer the matter to the Supreme Court of India under Article 138 B of the Indian Constitution. Whatever the apex court ruled would be acceptable to every section of Indian Muslims, they added. Muslim groups in different parts of the country held demonstrations and called azaans as a mark of protest. 

More than 2,000 protesters were arrested across the country. Surprisingly, a large number of arrests were made in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which had witnessed relatively little violence after the Demolition. Mumbai city, which bore the brunt in the aftermath of the Demolition, remained calm and peaceful, though separate meetings and demonstrations were organised by some Muslim organisations and secular groups. 

In Delhi, however, hundreds of writers, journalists, teachers and intellectuals gathered under the banners of the Democratic Writers Association, Progressive Writers Association, SAHMAT, Jan Natya Manch, and Dalit Writers Forum, to register their protest against the government, at the historic Khooni Darwaza.

A resolution unanimously passed by the gathering demanded, among other things, that:
l Those guilty for the destruction of Babri Masjid, and the ensuing riots must be punished.

l  Those named guilty in the Srikrishna report (Mumbai riots) be punished.

l  The attacks on minorities be strongly resisted and the forces responsible for these attacks be brought to book. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, December  1998. Year 6, No. 49, Update

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