Image from IndiaToday's album, 25 years of Babri demolition case
In the pre-British Raj era, Hindu-Muslim relations in the Indian subcontinent were complex. In the times before British rule, Hindu-Muslim relations in the Indian subcontinent were pretty intricate. Picture a landscape filled with various kingdoms and empires where different religious and cultural communities coexisted. The Mughal Empire, started by Babur, tried to integrate various religious traditions through a kind of blended governance. While they aimed for tolerance, historical records tell us that tensions still bubbled up due to local dynamics, rulers, and economic factors.
As the colonial era rolled in, things got even more complicated. The Indian Congress Party and the All-India Muslim League went head-to-head, fueling religious conflict in India. The simmering resentment that Hindus had towards Muslim Mughal rulers and co-religionists got even more intense during colonial times. Instead of easing these tensions, colonialism made them worse. When the British left in 1947, it triggered a massive human migration, with millions of Muslims moving to West and East Pakistan and a similar number of Hindus and Sikhs going the other way. Sadly, this led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
This whole socio-religious tapestry set the stage for some major changes as the British East India Company expanded its influence. The clashes between political factions and long-standing tensions eventually resulted in the division of British India into two independent nations—India and Pakistan.
Post-British departure, the subcontinent witnessed the cataclysmic communal violence of partition. Communities that had coexisted for centuries found themselves embroiled in a sectarian conflict, witnessing Hindus and Sikhs facing off against Muslims in a mutual genocide of unparalleled scale. The provinces of Punjab and Bengal, bordering West and East Pakistan respectively, became epicentres of brutality, marked by massacres, arson, forced conversions, mass abductions, and disturbing instances of sexual violence.
The partition, deeply etched into the subcontinent's modern identity, parallels the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish identity, leaving an indelible mark on regional consciousness with memories of unprecedented violence.
While India asserts its status as a secular nation, the demographic reality reveals a significant imbalance, with Hindus constituting 78.9% of the population compared to Muslims at 14.2%. This demographic asymmetry adds complexity to the longstanding centuries-old conflict between the two communities.
Construction of the Babri Masjid commenced in 1528 under the rule of the first Mughal King, Babur. In 1853, a Hindu sect claimed that a temple was demolished during King Babur's reign to make way for the mosque. British intervention in 1859 led to the establishment of a fence, serving as a separation to enable the safe practice of both faiths. This event marked the beginning of decades of controversies surrounding the religious site.
Hindus consider Ayodhya, the location, as the birthplace of the grand Hindu deity, Ram. In 1992, a Hindu mob, believed by many to be orchestrated as part of a plot, demolished the Babri Mosque. Nearly 2000 people lost their lives during the riots that ensued.
On January 22, the Modi government officially consecrated the new Ram Temple. The period from 1949, when the mosque became disputed property, to January 22, when the new temple was inaugurated, stands as a symbolic representation of the longstanding conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The jubilant celebration of the consecration barely acknowledged the horrors of the riots that had taken place.
For the Modi government, this goes beyond a victory for Hindus; it essentially functions as a key element in his reelection campaign. Many Hindu nationalists hail him as the individual who is transforming India from a perceived corruptly secular state, influenced by what they consider dangerous Western and Islamic ideas, into a securely Hindu nation. This notion is reinforced by the fact that consecrating a temple that is not technically complete goes against Hindu religious principles. It is not only factually incorrect but also viewed as an insult to the religion, as it involves the violation of sacred scriptures
Delving into the historical roots of Modi's political trajectory unveils a strategic narrative deeply entwined with the vision of constructing a temple in Ayodhya. During the 1990s, Modi orchestrated a religious gathering that fervently advocated for the establishment of a Ram temple on the contested site of the Babri Mosque. This marked a pivotal moment where religious fervour and political ambition converged.
Modi's persistent and assertive approach in championing the temple's construction is perceived by critics as more than a mere religious aspiration; it's seen as a calculated endeavour to reshape the socio-political landscape.
The construction of the temple is viewed as a symbolic act reinforcing Hindu supremacy, with implications that extend beyond religious sentiments. This aggressive pursuit may potentially relegate Indian Muslims to a subordinate status, systematically eroding their dignity and infringing upon their rights in a broader socio-political context. The enduring nature of this pursuit underscores its significance as a central tenet of Modi's political agenda.
In navigating the intricate narrative of the Ram Temple's inauguration under the Modi government, it becomes evident that this monumental event serves as more than a religious milestone. Rather, it stands as a calculated move in the political chessboard, strategically positioned to assert Hindu supremacy. The demographic reality, with Hindus constituting 78.9% of the population, coupled with Modi's push for a Hindu-centric nation, positions the temple as a symbolic checkmate against the Muslim minority.
The temple's consecration, while celebrated as a religious triumph, underscores a deeper political agenda that challenges the secular ethos of the nation, systematically sidelining the rights and dignity of the Muslim community. In essence, the Ram Temple emerges as a potent marker of Hindu dominance, strategically placed on the board of Indian politics.
The interaction between the Hindu and Muslim communities continues to affect ordinary citizens profoundly, as the harm inflicted by extremists is indiscriminate. Bilkis Bano is a Muslim woman, whose tragic ordeal in Gujarat in 2002, where she was raped by 14 Hindu men, her 3-year-old daughter was murdered, and her entire family was brutally killed during post-Godhra riots, serves as a stark illustration of this impact. Despite the perpetrators being initially sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008, the Modi government prematurely released them in 2022. However, in 2024, the Supreme Court of India overturned the Gujarat government’s decision and reinstated all life sentences.
These events exemplify the atrocities stemming from the ongoing conflict between these two communities, which, while initially rooted in faith, have been perpetuated by politicians and individuals in positions of power exploiting the division for their gain and exacerbating tensions.
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