Experience of growing up in post-Babri Masjid Demolition era

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I know religion is a tricky issue. I have given enough thought before writing this column. I have no intention of hurting anyone's sentiments. I know we are a nation strongly driven by emotions and sentiments but I could not stop expressing my views. This is no clarification before dealing with a controversial subject but a confession of my teenage memories, which have shaped my adulthood to a great extent. And, yes, let me tell you beforehand, I owe no allegiance to any political party or religious group.

I grew up in a tranquil environment of various small towns (Anini, Pasighat and Ziro) of Arunachal Pradesh. As far as my memory goes, religion as a subject was never discussed in the public forum. Actually, religion was almost a non-entity. Perhaps, that is why discussion surrounding religion holds no meaning at all. Religion was a private affair as people kept it within the confines of their homes.

Babri Masjid

Moreover, religious places were very few too. All festivals (be it Durga Puja, Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Christmas) were a community calling, where people belonging to various sections of the society would join hands together to make them memorable. This sounds Utopian. Yes, it was almost close to Utopia.

Perhaps that is why incident like demolition of Babri Masjid is nothing less than shocking. It was an incident which was not broadcast live on Television channels (like 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks). Images on cover pages of magazines like India Today were enough to leave me speechless. "Why some politicians had to brain-wash Indian voters to carry out such a shameless act of savagery?"

Supporters of the demolition say, "In 1528, Mir Baqi Khan, a general of Babar built a mosque in Ayodhya, traditionally at a spot believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. Khan allegedly built the mosque after demolishing a Hindu temple at the spot. The mosque came to known as the Masjid-i-Janamsthan, Masjid Mir Baqi or the Babri Masjid."

I don't contest their theory as they have some amount of support from historical evidences. But in spite of that, I protest the very act of bringing down the Masjid. Such acts brutally disqualify us to be called as a "secular" nation. Now, don't say that Pakistan is making lives of Hindus miserable. My answer is, "We are not Pakistani. We are Indians."

I would like to ask BJP leader LK Advani to give me a strong and believable answer to my question, "What made him and his party leaders to incite large group of uncontrollable mob wearing religion on their sleeves to indulge in such a dastardly act that divided modern India into two groups?"

I know it is not only BJP but Congress and several other political parties tried to see the demolition of the Masjid "as an opportunity to increase their vote-bank by slicing and breaking the country into two groups - Hindus and Muslims".

Dec 6, 1992 was a usual day for me. It was very cold as temperature in Ziro (where I was staying at that time) dips as low as 5 degree Celsius during the day time in winter season. At 8 pm news in Doordarshan, I heard how a mob of Hindu 'Karsevaks' (religious volunteers) brought down the centuries-old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is miles apart from Arunachal Pradesh. I did not hear the clamour of the mob while they were engaged in the destruction of the Masjid. But the images on TV sent shivers down my spine.

What I learnt that day is that religion can turn people crazy, absolute crazy, almost fanatic. And we (the common man) let ourselves become pawns at the hands of politicians.

I could not understand what was going on in Ayodhya? Neither did I try to clarify my doubts from the elders. Next morning, as usual I packed my bag and went to school.

Before the morning prayer meeting, I found a couple of my seniors huddled together along with our mathematics teacher in the school compound. They were having an animated discussion--the topic was demolition of Babri Masjid. What transpired in that discussion was a volatile subject, I would rather not bring into fore. Yes, my mathematics teacher (a self-proclaimed RSS man) celebrated the episode in front of young boys and girls who were perhaps as clueless as I was. If I was disappointed with my mathematics teacher's behaviour, I was equally proud of my fellow student Raja. He was brave enough to protest what our mathematics teacher was professing.

"I am ashamed Sir, I am ashamed of those who demolished the Masjid and I am equally ashamed of people who support such unfortunate incidents," Raja said with his head held high and left from the discussion spot.

After that what followed is something we all know. Communal riots were witnessed across the country.

Many say cloud of terrorism, which still looms large across the country in a direct effect of the Dec 6, 1992 episode. Experts maintain, "Before the Babri Masjid was demolished, there were straying terrorist incidents in Kashmir but the rest of India remained untouched. Now it's everywhere."

Even after passage of 20 years, Babri Masjid demolition is an episode that disturbs my tranquility. And I still ask myself, "Are we really secular?"

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