People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 13, 2009


SAHMAT Observes Babri Demolition Anniversary


Sohail Hashmi


IN the immediate aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and attempts to present the city of Ayodhya as a site that had only one majoritarian history, Sahmat undertook a massive project to foreground the pluralistic history of Ayodhya and the Faizabad Ayodhya region. This cultural, political and social history of the region, that talked of the rich and diverse spiritual connections of the city with Buddhism, with Sufism and the Bhakti movement and Sikhism, of the freedom fighters and martyrs of Ayodhya and of the cultural icons of India who belonged to the region was unveiled in the shape of an Exhibition in 16 cities including Faizabad on August 19, 1992 coinciding with the anniversary of the Quit India Movement.


The Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition strongly challenged the constructs of India�s past being manufactured by the votaries of Hindutva and was targeted by these forces. The exhibition was attacked at Ayodhya, cases were filed against Sahmat and parts of the Exhibition proscribed after the BJP created a furore in parliament. After eight years of legal wrangling, the Delhi High Court threw out the case. 


On December 6, 2009, Sahmat displayed the exhibition again at an event held to mark the 17th anniversary of the demolition and to underline the significance of continuing the struggle to defend our pluralistic traditions. The eminent lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, who had represented Sahmat in the Hum Sab Ayodhya case was present at the event and spoke on the significance of the Justice Liberhan Commission report. Justice Liberhan had enquired into the events leading up to and the demolition of the Mosque. Rajeev Dhawan rejected the arguments being raised against the findings of the report and stated that, despite its inadequacies in certain areas the report has clearly indicted 68 persons, including the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishan Advani, Kalyan Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Balasaheb Thakrey, B P Singhal and others and prosecution proceedings can be launched against them on the basis of the Commission�s findings.


The event began with Dr Anwar Alam and Nauman Shauque reciting their poetry, while Dr Alam�s Ghazal focused on the infirmities of our democratic polity that denies equality of opportunity and equality before law to the vast multitudes, Nauman Shauque�s satirical poem attacked the very foundations of the argument that presented the largest minority as the �undesirable other�.


The poetry recitation and Rajeev Dhavan�s talk was followed by the recitation of �Jungle Mein Nahin Hai Ayodhya.� The last panel of the Hum Sab Ayodhya exhibition concludes with this celebrated poem by Anil Kumar Singh. The poem in fact sums up the general idea of the exhibition that locates the city in the daily lives of the people of Ayodhya, of its syncretic traditions and of the dangers that cities like Ayodhya and the country at large face at the hands of the communal fascist forces. Journalist and writer Shesh Narain Singh recited the poem.


Ruchira Gupta, journalist and women�s rights activist who was an eye witness to the demolition of Babri Masijd, recounted the events and the witch hunt and character assassination that she had to suffer at the hands of pro-Hindutva outfits because she dared to depose before the several commissions and public hearings that enquired into the events and investigated the role of the organisations and individuals that were involved in the conspiracy to pull down the Mosque.


Professor Prabhat Patnaik in his short but thought provoking comment pointed to the need of continuing the fight against the ideology of Hindutva and warned against succumbing to the understanding that the recent electoral set-backs suffered by the BJP, signals the political decline of this backward ideology. Professor Patnaik pointed out that there was nothing backward in this ideology and that the ideology of Hindutva was a modern ideology, it was a fascist ideology and had to be confronted as such.


After Professor Parbhat Patnaik, it was the turn of linguist, film critic and Sufi singer Dr Madan Gopal Singh, who presented the poetry of Sultan Bahu, Bulleh Shah and several other traditional and folk compositions that highlighted the rich pluralistic traditions that are our shared heritage.


During the evening, two new Sahmat publications were also released. A 2010 calender designed by Photographer designer Parthiv Shah. The calendar based on a selection of Sahmat posters brought out during the last twenty years, was released by Sitaram Yechury, while, the well known artist Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh released a compilation of articles written by a cross section of writers, academicians, artists and others written for Sahmat during the last two decades. The historic Hum Sab Ayodhya poster that was designed by photographer, designer Ram Rehman for the Hum Sab Ayodhya project was re-issued on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid by Vivan Sundaram, senior artist and founding trustee of Sahmat.


The well attended evening, that saw a coming together of artists, writers, activists, theatre workers, poets, journalists, film makers, youth and students  concluded with the screening of a feature film, Naseem, directed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza. Featuring Kaifi Azmi in a memorable role, Naseem, revolves around the events leading to the demolition and focuses on the deep social cleavages that the politics of hate created in its wake. The film   is a powerful indictment of the divisive politics of Hindutva and was a sharp reminder of the need to be ever vigilant.