Seventeen years have passed since the destruction of this icon of Muslim presence in the subcontinent, yet there is no lessening of the pain that the incident caused. Much like a helpless stag surrounded by hordes of hyenas that lunged and tore at its flesh, the three domed Mosque silently stood under relentless attacks in utter helplessness; a haunting image that has stood frozen in time ever since. Mark Tully, the veteran BBC correspondent, once asked to recollect the most tragic event that he covered during a lifetime of reporting from the subcontinent, singled out the destruction of Babri Mosque, on December 06, 1992 as the most painful one.
The build-up to the final orgy of destruction was well contemplated and yet not an anticipatory finger was raised in defence of the 16th century mosque built by the Mughal General Mir Baqi in 1528 for use by the Muslim troops and the local Muslim population. The Hindu population claimed, without a shred of any supporting evidence, that the mosque was built over the site of a Hindu temple constructed to mark the birthplace of the Hindu god-king Rama. The BJP, seeking to harness the power of the concepts of Hindu, revivalism made this emotive issue the centre plank of a populist campaign to stake its claim to political power in India. It turned out to be a windfall; a stratagem of genius. The Hindu extremist party was able to boost its tally of seats in the Lok Sabha from only two in 1984 to 86 in 1989 to 118 in 1991. In 1990, Advani launched a 10,000km Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra in a truck customised as a chariot from the Hindu mythology, to garner support for the destruction of the Babri Mosque. On the evening of 3rd December 1992, as 150,000 Karsevaks assembled at Ayodhya, the destruction of the mosque stood out menacingly as a bold writing on the wall.
The entire leadership of the Sangh Parivar – including the L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, RSS Chief K Sudarshan, BJP firebrand Sadhavi Uma Bharti-shared a dais in close proximity providing leadership and stimulus for tearing down the mosque. Ayodhya lay in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP had taken over power for the first time with Kalyan Singh as chief minister. During the build up to the karsevak assault, Kalyan Singh had assured the National Integration Council as well as the Supreme Court that he would provide protection to the mosque. Events were to prove these promises as mere subterfuges to pave way for Babri’s destruction. Therefore, when the demolition began he did nothing to control the mobs, even refusing to deploy 20,000 central forces waiting barely minutes away from the place. As regards the central government run by the Indian National Congress, its Prime Minister Narasimha Rao took his afternoon siesta as the mosque was razed to the ground. By nightfall the grand old mosque lay waste; the idols of ‘Ram Lalla’ in place and karsevaks in full control proudly surveying the debris of the iconic mosque.
A maelstrom of blood bath and savagery took hold of India in the days to come, where unabated communal violence raged on for the first five days. Over 2,000 Muslims lost their lives. It was only after two months that the carnage spent its fury and a semblance of normalcy made a reluctant return. As the dust began to settle the efforts to bury the crime began. Advani, the main architect of the crime, declared Babri’s destruction as “the saddest day” of his life. Sangh Parivar began a cover up campaign; trying to create an impression that the tragedy was not premeditated but occurred on spur of the moment. A commission of inquiry under Justice Liberhan was established within 10 days of the tragedy to bare the facts. The Liberhan Commission, as it came to be called, became the longest serving commission of inquiry in India. When it presented its report to the government in June 2009, 17 long years had passed. Without any urge to make up for the lost time the Congress government is still deliberating when to table it in Lok Sabha; weighing in political imperatives instead of catering to the imperatives of justice and fair play.
In the meanwhile, interesting comments made by leading characters of the crime, during the inquiry have begun to do rounds. Kalyan Singh, who has developed differences with the BJP leadership, has started hitting out at Vajpayee, Advani and Joshi saying that Babri was destroyed on the orders of senior BJP leaders. He had earlier proudly boasted of his inactivity that facilitated the crime. Murli Manohar Joshi who was in the forefront of vandalism made a deposition before the commission; “with all humility, I say that the incident was never remotely conceived by us.” Vinay Katiyar, the Bajrang Dal chief, who said that the “Masjid will be demolished and the debris will be thrown in River Sarayu,” has side stepped the entire issue asserting that there was no requirement for the commission since Ram Lalla is the owner of the place. Advani, with his the “saddest day of my life” masterpiece, of course, remains the demagogue in chief.

While the major perpetrators of the crime remain in a state of denial, the wound caused by the Babri’s destruction has turned into a cancerous growth. The Indian establishment might think that it has managed to bring the case to a well-choreographed conclusionl; yet the ghosts set free on December 06, 1992, continue to haunt the Indian nation. Communal fault lines that lay hidden under the facade of a monolithic secular Indian nationhood has ever since begun to assert themselves glaringly. The communal hatred is smouldering ever since and was evident in the frenzy of Hindu mobs during the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat during Feb-March 2002. The violent backlash among the cornered Muslim community in India has begun to manifest itself as well. The sense of outrage and latent anger is pushing minorities to extremes of violence and that does not auger well for the future of the Indian Union.