People's Democracy

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


No. 50

December 16, 2012


SAHMAT Observes Twentieth Anniversary

Of Babri Masjid Demolition


ON December 6 this year, it was twenty years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. An event that sparked off widespread rioting, deaths and unrest in the country was also preceded by a bitter communal campaign that damaged India in many ways.

To observe the twentieth anniversary of that black day, Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) organised a meeting where Left-leaning intellectuals, writers, performers, public personalities, activists and journalists got together to discuss in what way Ayodhya still matters today. And the lessons learnt from the violence and darkness that scarred India in 1992.

Soon after the demolition, SAHMAT had organised a multi-faceted exhibition to emphasise the plurality of India, which had become important given the onslaught of India’s compositeness at the time. The exhibition, was about the composite history of Ayodhya – its Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Muslim influences that should have resulted in Indians celebrating its wholesomeness rather than an emblem of divisiveness. The exhibition which toured India shortly after the demolition was actually stopped and dismounted from New Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at Teen Murti on the order of the orders of the Lt Governor of Delhi after the Lok Sabha speaker had made adverse remarks on the exhibition. Police confiscated two panels of Jain- Buddh Ram katha traditions and SAHMAT had to fight a long legal battle in Delhi High Court to get the ban vacated. It was earlier vandalised by the VHP goons at Faizabad. Yet, it continued its journey later through out the country, incorporating not just ideas imparted by historians and academicians, but also slogans, art, photographs, text and stories sent by common citizens from all over India in the form of diverse colourful canvas pieces stitched together as a huge canvas wall. This work has been printed as a book in colour entitled Ham Sab Ayodhya (We Are All Ayodhya).

At the meeting on December 6, Aruna Roy, social activist associated with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and with the Right to Information and Right to Employment movement, released the book Ham Sab Ayodhya and spoke of how difficult December 6, 1992 was for people like her. She spoke of how the fall of the Masjid was an unimaginable thing: “as we had never thought their (right -wing) bluff would be called.” She elaborated on how crucial it was to fight for the ideals of democracy and secularism, which the fall of the Babri Masjid has dented.

Speaking after Roy, economist Professor Prabhat Patnaik clearly laid out how the demolition of Ayodhya had impacted on India in a disturbing way. He spoke of how “creeping fascism” was the trend in a country, with cartoonists being hounded in West Bengal, with someone like Bal Thackeray, a copybook fascist, being accorded a State funeral. He said, “You have got a situation when the entire country, from the president and the prime minister downwards, is intimidated to pay homage to somebody who was perfect example of a classically fascist personality, that is indicative of the shift which has happened over all these years towards fascism becoming a part of the common sense or the popular discourse.”

He said right wing forces were always encouraged when India faced ruptures in its social fabric such as Babri Masjid’s demolition. He pointed out how after the Emergency too in 1975, the hands of the right wing were strengthened. And all these breaks had consequences that lasted to date.

Prof Patnaik said the fact that “you can demolish the mosque and get away with that, opened the floodgates of imagination to other targets in the country.” Referring to the forces of global finance that also encourage and sustain the right wing, Prof Patnaik said the ascent of global finance and Hindutva forces both did not bode well for the country and needed to be fought.

Former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, who as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission was instrumental in making a persuasive case on the role of right wing attackers in Gujarat in 2002 also spoke in the meeting. He recalled enduring ties between Muslims and Hindus which make India the composite whole it is, by recounting a story of his father’s friend in pre-partition days, of one  Maula Baksh, and how his interests led to his father leaving Bombay to settle down close to Maula Baksh, who was friendless and isolated in the aftermath of partition and wanted Justice Verma’s family’s support. Using the personal  association as an illustration, Justice Verma emphasised that it is the duty and responsibility of a country, especially its majority, to guard the interests and well being of its minorities. Verma elaborated how national harmony rests on harmonious coexistence at a personal, everyday level between its citizens.


M K Raina, renowned theatre personality conducted the proceedings. Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and many other CPI(M) leaders were present in the programme.