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Babri demolition impact on popular psyche: Failure to highlight 'positive' side of Hinduism

By Harsh Thakor* 

No post-Independence event so much transformed the psyche of the Indian people or escalated communal fervour at such a scale as the Babri Masjid demolition. The demolition took saffron communalism to an unprecedented magnitude and Hindutva to a new height. It polarised fascism from bourgeois democracy, and exposed how in essence India was not secular.
The 2019 Babri Masjid judgement reflected how Hindutva has penetrated the judicial system, with criminals being exonerated and permission granted to build a temple. The secular fabric of the Constitution was ripped apart.
I can never forget my days as a youth in Mumbai around the attack on Babri Masjid. As an activist of students organization Pravis and democratic rights organisation Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana, I was a regular participant of the Ekta Samiti, formed in 1986, convened by reformer Asghar Ali Engineer.
It coincided with the days of the declaration of the Shah Bano judgement and the Congress patronising the goal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. However, some of us expressed how such platforms had a weakness in not emphasising how class struggle only can confront Hindu communalism and not just propagating religious brotherhood like MK Gandhi.
The traditional left parties had not extricated themselves from parliamentary electoral politics and diffused militant approach. No doubt, their cadre was mostly secular, heroically confronting the Shiv Sena and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad during the communal riots that took place then.
The Ekta Forum was progressive but adopted reformist approach akin to that of Gandhi.The Marxist groups, on the other hand, did not form a front of their own to challenge the saffron forces.
At the time of the Rath Yatra of 1990, two memories that linger to my mind are the 1990 poster of the Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana highlighting the unity of the workers in confronting comunalism, which was noticeably seen by factory workers. The other was a poster by CPI(ML) Red Flag addressing the ruling classes how people should fight for issues like price rise, housing, jobs etc ,instead of fighting for a temple.
Although small, qualitative campaigns were taken out by constituents of the All-India Federation of Organizations for Democratic Rights. Commendable work was undertaken by the Bharatiya Janwadi Agahadi in the slums or bastis, building volunteer self-defence forces. Anti-riot committees were built.
I can’t forget how sections of Hindu workers risked their lives to save their brethren Muslim brothers in Bhiwandi or Kurla.It was also admirable how during the subsequent riots in Mumbai, democratic revolutionary groups undertook a counter-poster campaign at railway stations and distributed leaflets to confront the communal tide in slums.
Positive work was undertaken in the Khagaria region of Bihar in 1989-90 to confront the communal forces. There were campaigns In 1993 by the Bharat Naujawan Sabha and the Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Samiti in regions like Palamau and Jehanabad. Peasant struggle played an important role in diluting communalism during the Bhagalpur riots.
Even if subjugated to severe state repression, organisations like the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union and the Revolutionary Students League in Gaya initiated cycle rallies and meetings condemning the saffron forces.
A major obstacle was, Communist forces could not intervene and thwart the disaster. Waging armed struggle, the People's War and the Maoist Communist Centre could not come out of their tunnels to challenge the saffron offensive. Those who refused to wage armed struggle could also hardly effectively challenge the situation. A glaring weakness was lack of presence of secular and democratic forces in the ranks of the working class or the self-defence forums built in bastis.
Meanwhile, Hindu communalist fervour escalated to an unprecedented magnitude with Hindu communal psyche reaching its crescendo. Anti-Muslim feelings penetrated the minds of all spheres of society at a scale unmatched.
Although intentions are progressive, today there is a powerful trend that feels parliamentary or Gandhian reformist trend can pose an effective challenge to the saffron fascists. This trend fails to comprehend the regressive aspect of Gandhian Ram Rajya with Santana Hinduism promoting many aspects of caste system. I can't forget VP Singh in 1989 forging an alliance with the BJP and how the CPM too sought to ally with communal parties in Kerala and Bengal.
A recent analysis of Babri demolition in the article ‘25 Years of Babri Masjid Demolition & Rise of Hindutva Fascism’ by Tanmoy Ibrahim in 'People's Review’ underlines that only by fighting the social order at the very base and sharpening class struggle, can the enemy be challenged. It is critical of the Congress for endorsing Hindu communal politics, in essence amidst the pretentious nature of Nehruvian socialism.
It highlights the correlation between secularism with struggles of the peasantry and workers to challenge semi-feudalism and corporatisation of agriculture. It describes the relationship between Hindutva and the oppressive socio-economic order or globalisation.
Let me quote from the article: “The approach of the liberals, who pretend that the system is right but the demolition of Babri Masjid is an exception is wrong. It must be understood and agreed upon that the Babri Masjid demolition was a pre-planned act, which had state-endorsement."
It continues, "The culprits are the ruling classes, and until the time they keep ruling India such heinous acts will be repeated and communal elements like Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi will ascend to power. The only way to stop these vanguards of communalism and unthrone them lies in the strenuous task of uniting the people and leading them with a long-term vision to achieve democracy and establish socialism and secularism..."
It asserts, "It’s not that the Narendra Modi regime is the sole culprit for this nasty scheme. All parliamentary parties, of all hues, shades and ideological orientation, are equally responsible for letting these hate mongers thrive and prosper. The regime of the Congress had extended support to the wellbeing of criminals and riot mongers like Advani and other BJP leaders."
It adds, "The Congress kept the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah clique immune from any legal repercussions for their nasty role behind the anti-Muslim pogrom of Gujarat, it helped Narendra Modi to ascend to the throne of New Delhi with utmost ease and never did any SP or BSP government in Uttar Pradesh try to take punitive action against the rioters who forever drew lines of communal demarcations across the state."
I feel that today things have turned complex, with the Muslim minority completely marginalized. There are very few efforts to initiate and link the anti-Brahmanic caste struggle with the secular movement. I feel that intellectuals must be vary of blindly attacking Hinduism as being fascist.
They must pay respect to its features which are positive. One must remember the contribution of Swami Agnivesh and those who wished to reform Hinduism. Preaching Bhagavad Gita is not the same thing as Hindutva. A cultural movement must be built against efforts to rebuke Moghuls in history books or glorify Veer Savarkar.
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*Freelance journalist based in Mumbai, who has written blogs on mass movements, democracy and class struggle, was active in anti-communal movement from late 1980s to early 1990s in Mumbai

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