After 25 years of Babri Masjid demolition, journalists here on Wednesday recalled their experiences of reporting on the watershed moment in the Indian politics, concluding that the act of vandalism which brought down the mosque was not a spontaneous act of passion of the people but outcome of a meticulous conspiracy hatched at the top.
They discussed the event, which divided Hindus and Muslims in its wake quarter of a century back, at the Press Club of India at the invitation of news website The Wire.
Referring to a “classic” news footage of the episode, Senior journalist Saeed Naqvi said none of those featuring in it spoke for Lord Ram or what the agitation was about, but the whole exercise was “choreographed” and was in fact directed against Pakistan.
“I was one of those stupid converts who thought that ‘Babri Masjid’ was negotiable. I thought the Hindu ‘aastha’ was for the Ram Mandir,” said Naqvi who was a reporter for The World Report in 1992 — the year of Masjid demolition.
“After Babri Masjid, Indian communalism reached a pitch from where it could never retreat … and it’s going to be extremely difficult for it to make a retreat,” he said.
He added that the Babri Masjid episode was but one aspect of the race between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress for the “consolidation of Hindu votes” against “minority extremism”.
Another journalist who worked as a Special Correspondent for Business India recalled her ordeal of getting molested and fatally attacked at the hands of vandals when she went inside the mosque during the demolition to see what was going on.
“It was packed with saffron-clad karsevaks… Someone heard someone say ‘Musalmaan’ and they tried to smother me thinking I was a Muslim. Some of them even molested me and tore my clothes, until I was rescued by one of them who recognised me as I had interviewed him a day before,” Ruchira Gupta, now an independent journalist, said.
“When I approached Advani (L.K Advani) who was at the ‘terrace’ and told him to ask people to stop attacking journalists, he said ‘apne sath jo hua wo bhool jao, itna aitihaasic din hai uski khushi me kuchh meetha khao (Forget what happened with you, have some sweets, it’s such a historic day),” she recounted.
Advani concluded his every “Rath Yatra”, Gupta said, with an exhortation to the crowd to build the temple where Babri Masjid once stood.
“The misogyny, the sexism has become part of the ruling party (BJP)’s framework,” she added.
Praveen Jain, a photojournalist with The Pioneer then, recounted how he came across a group of people doing a proper “rehearsal” of the moves which felled the mosque a day later.
“I was taken to a site near the ‘masjid’ by a BJP MP, who gave me a saffron scarf and Vishwa Hindu Parishad i-card also… I saw several men practising there with spades and ropes upon a mound made for the purpose. The methods were used the next day in bringing down the mosque,” Jain, with Indian Express now, said.
Mark Tully, Chief of Bureau at BBC then, said: “What was completely disgraceful was that the authority of the government completely collapsed. There was no government in Ayodhya that day. Security forces remained parked in nearby areas and offered no resistance… ‘Karsevaks’ had complete control over things. Obscene slogans were shouted against Muslims.”
The Supreme Court on Monday began final hearing on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue after 2010, the year when a high court judgement had divided the site between three parties — Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Lord Ram Lalla.