It was a temple and will remain one: Kar sevaks recall Babri Masjid demolition
The Supreme Court will on Tuesday commence the final hearing in the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute, a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the structure.india Updated: Dec 06, 2017 10:49 IST
Hajari Lal doesn’t remember the date of his birth, but the day he helped tear down Babri Masjid is etched in his mind. The kar sevak (religious volunteer) climbed on to the central dome of the 16th century structure alongside hundreds of other men with a shovel, an iron rod and some rope on the morning of December 6, 1992.
“I broke the structure with my own hands. Around 11.15am that day, someone hoisted a saffron flag atop the structure, and we broke loose. By 6pm, it was finished,” he says with a tinge of pride.
The Supreme Court will on Tuesday commence the final hearing in the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute, a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the structure.
Lal says he is around 55 and spends his days in Ayodhya’s Karsevakpuram, the nerve centre of the temple movement that houses a prototype of the proposed Ram temple, set up in a mothballed pink room next to heaps of garbage, vials of organic medicines, glossy pamphlets and crumbling scaffolding. He is dressed in a soiled, white vest and his voice is frail, but quickly changes as we ask him about Babri Masjid.
“Don’t call it a mosque, it is a structure. It was a temple, and will remain a temple,” he snarls. “It will be a two-storied temple with 212 pillars, Ram Lalla on the ground level and Ram and Sita on the first.”
Lal, a resident of Bathlaiya village in the state’s Shahjahanpur district, dropped out of college and travelled 300 km to Ayodhya in 1990– one of thousands of young men in the Hindi belt who left their homes to converge for what they believed was a divine task.
He is certain that Muslims vandalised the Ram temple that legendary Hindu king Vikramaditya apparently built, but is confused sometimes whether Aurangzeb or Babar was the original plunderer. “Blue nights would illuminate the temple,” he says, pointing at the twinkling Chinese lights that line the prototype.
Lal spent three months in hospital after December 6 nursing an injury he sustained buried under the debris, and went home for a week, but soon returned to Ayodhya. “My family was very angry. They locked me up in a room, but I escaped. Ram temple hadn’t been built. How could I stay away?”
Kar sevaks like Lal seethe with anger at the day state police opened fire at them on orders of the then chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in 1990. Sudhir Nag, like Lal, also survived the incident that killed 28 people, but a .303 rifle bullet pierced his face and shattered the retina of his right eye.
The 48-year-old nurses a scar, and is married with two children. But on October 30, 1990, he says he was leading a batch of 70 kar sevaks to the disputed site, when a bullet hit him and he fell unconscious. He regained consciousness on November 2, after emergency surgeries saved his life. “When I fell, I could faintly hear that security personnel begin carrying away the dead bodies including mine. But one of them saw one of my legs moving and said ‘Yeh zinda hai (he is alive).” He later spent six months at Lucknow’s King George Medical College and learnt his life was saved because the bullet had rebounded off a wall.
“What Mulayam Singh Yadav had said, “Masjid pe ek parinda bhi par nahin mar sakega (The security will be so tight that not even a bird will dare to fly past the mosque), we took as a challenge. We marched on,” he said. He rues that he couldn’t see the mosque demolition because some friends had locked him up.
“Why should the judiciary meddle? All know that it is Ram Janmabhoomi. The structure was no mosque. I wish VHP gives a call for building the temple. And we will build it,” he said.
Marching as the same time as Nag from another part of town was Raghunandan Das, who was leading a group of 100-odd men who were arrested and put on a bus around 8am that day. What happened next is now popular lore in Ayodhya.
“We had barely moved a few metres when the driver, a Muslim, jumped off the bus and fled. We took control of the bus and I was at the wheel, smashing all police barricades,” the 65-year-old said. They were stopped before the disputed site and clashes broke out with the police. Minutes later, Das says, bullets rained down on them, one hitting his ankle.
Not everyone was as lucky. Gayatri Pandey lost her husband Ramesh in the police firing and says she had to bring up their four children on her own with much hardship. “Everyone thinks of Ayodhya but no one remembers us. Mulayam killed Hindus and got seats,” she says, standing at the door of her decaying one-storied house. She has filed cases of murder against Yadav and has the backing of the VHP. She says she got courage after hearing Yadav justify the killing during his birthday last month.
The temple movement evokes mixed reactions. Lal is convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sent to build the temple. Pandey’s primary concern is the case. And Das is disillusioned. “There is no temple movement now. Whatever is going in the name of Ram Mandir is a political movement.”