Lasting impact of the Babri Mosque on India-Pakistan relations

Lasting impact of the Babri Mosque on India-Pakistan relations


The Indian Supreme Court’s unanimous decision earlier this month on the Babri Mosque case ruled that the land belonged to the government and that it be handed over to a trust to build a Hindu temple — with Muslims being allotted land elsewhere for their mosque.
The court ordered the government give an alternate 5 acre tract of land to the Sunni Waqf Board to build the new mosque. But as no specific area has been earmarked, even the allotment of the alternate land will probably go on to generate its own controversy.
The Supreme Court judgment, though highly divisive and questionable, came as no surprise. It was in full compliance with the wishes of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and its followers.
On Dec. 6, 1992, in a pre-planned move, a highly charged group of Hindu activists demolished the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. According to the prevailing version of the Hindu community, the Babri Mosque was built on a site that was the birthplace of Lord Ram, the most revered hero of the epic Ramayan.
The zeal and frenzy generated by Hindu activists and politicians brought over 150,000 of their followers to contribute toward the demolition of the mosque. They came fully prepared with the tools for the demolition, and to build the Ram temple.

Regrettably, there is a general impression that the Supreme Court, like most state institutions in India, has been influenced by the wave of supra-Hindu nationalism that now pervades India — sentiments coming from its ruling party.

Talat Masood

It was a monumental moment for Hindu-Muslim relations in India, and indeed, around the world. There appeared to be no punishment for those who blatantly violated the law by demolishing the mosque. The state conveniently overlooked this aspect during the demolition and so did the courts.
Regrettably, there is a general impression that the Supreme Court, like most state institutions in India, has been influenced by the wave of supra-Hindu nationalism that now pervades India — sentiments coming from its ruling party.
In fact, even the opposition Congress party and most other political parties in India approved of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi only recently remarked that the verdict was a major achievement in light of the strong backing and sentiments of the masses. There are over 966 million Hindus in India, in contrast with a Muslim minority of roughly 200 million.
Unfortunately, the roots of the BJP goes back to extreme rightwing Hindu nationalist groups, known for a general disdain for minorities and especially Muslims.
The 2002 Gujarat riots witnessed the worst form of inter-communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat under its then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now Prime Minister of India. The riots were a stark example of the type of violence being perpetuated on Muslims. Independent sources reported that as many as 2,000 people were killed, some brutally murdered. There were also reports of wide spread looting and rape.
The police and government officials alleged to be involved, were exonerated by the courts including Narendra Modi . Following the riots, for nearly a decade, Modi was barred from setting foot on US soil for his alleged part in the Gujarat violence.
Now, the whole concept of India being a secular state has radically changed and it is heading toward becoming an essentially Hindu state. These changes however, go on to have a serious impact on Muslims and other minorities living in India. As of now, despite some petitions, Muslims in all probability will begrudgingly accept the court’s decision on Babri Mosque. But the wounds of the verdict will not heal so easily and there is the increasing likelihood of rising despair that might find expression later.
Even though the Babri Mosque verdict complicates already tense relations with India, Pakistan has generally stayed away from openly taking a position on the treatment of Indian Muslims. The exception is Kashmir, because it is a disputed region where human rights violations are increasingly authenticated by international human rights organizations as well as journalists, ever since New Delhi abrogated the region’s special status and imposed a curfew in August.
It is little surprise that Indian Muslims would not like any overt or covert support from Pakistan, as this will only create problems for them. One thing however, is clear: The Babri Mosque decision and its fallout cannot remain confined to India and will have repercussions on a wider canvas — and certainly in Pakistan.
Other Muslim countries, with strong economic and political ties with India, will in all probability continue to overlook the verdict.
But what is most worrisome of all, is that the Babri Mosque judgment could lead to opening new wounds and more attacks on Muslims and other minorities in India on a wider scale. PM Modi and his government now carry on their shoulders the huge responsibility of averting such a potential disaster.

- Talat Masood is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
Email: [email protected]

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