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20 yrs after Babri razing, scars remain

New Delhi: Twenty years after the Babri mosque demolition sparked off the worst communal clashes after the subcontinent's partition in 1947, India has moved on. But analysts and politicians say there has to be a constant secular vigil.

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Despite the then government's pledge, the razed 16th century mosque has not been rebuilt. On its ruins now stands a makeshift shrine for Hindu god Rama, guarded by hundreds of heavily armed security personnel.

The temple-mosque row of Ayodhya, where it all happened, no more elicits the kind of emotions it evoked in the late 1980s and early 90s, re-drawing the political map of the country.

"The general resentment against the demolition has been vindicated," says political analyst Aswini K. Ray. He said the incident came as a shock to India's deep-rooted secular traditions.

Key players in Babri mosque razing
LK Advani: He was the face of the Ayodhya temple movement. His 'rath yatra' from Somnath to Ayodhya (halted in Bihar) led to widespread riots. He later called the Babri razing a matter of regret. Went on to be deputy prime minister, and remains a star in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Murli Manohar Joshi: Was a strong and vocal advocate of a Ram temple at the Babri site. He witnessed the mosque razing and was photographed joyously hugging Uma Bharti. Remains a senior leader of BJP.

Vijayaraje Scindia:
She was an uncompromising opponent of the Babri mosque, which was said to be at the birthsite of Lord Rama. She later gave up electoral politics. She died in 2001.

Uma Bhrati: The firebrand face of the Hindutva movement, she raised slogans such as 'Ram nam satya hai, Babri Masjid dhvasth hai' as the Babri mosque was razed. Later became chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. She quit the BJP and then returned to the party.

Kalyan Singh: Was the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri mosque was destroyed. He too left the BJP but is now back in the party.

Ashok Singhal:
The best known face of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which prepared the ground for the pro-temple movement that, helped the BJP to grow and grow. He suffers now from poor health.

Sadhvi Rithambhara:
Like Uma Bharti, she was another firebrand face of the Hindutva movement. She addressed innumerable meetings inciting people to destroy the Babri mosque. Now immersed in spiritual work.

Vinay Katiyar:
Founder president of Bajrang Dal, the militant arm of VHP. On Nov 30, 1992, he had said ominously: "Kuch bigadega tabhi kuch banega." (When something is destroyed, only then will something be born. He was later the Lok Sabha member from Faizabad (Ayodhya).

But the fact that no political party, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, on Wednesday justifies the destruction is a "vindication of India's secularism", the former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor told.

Added Rizwan Qaiser of Jamia Millia Islamia university here: "The country has moved on, so has the (Muslim) community, but the scar has remained."It was on Dec 6, 1992, when a mob owing allegiance to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and related organisations overran the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh, and brought down the shrine in just six hours.

The calamitous event triggered nationwide rioting and sowed the seeds of Muslim anger India was not prepared for. It also led to the rise and rise of the BJP, eventually catapulting it to power nationally in 1998.

George Mathew, chairman of the Institute of Social Sciences, said that mass determination not to look back has acted as a check against a repeat of such an incident. Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the Babri demolition held valuable lessons for India, a Hindu-majority country with the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

According to published accounts, Babri mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a nobel in Mughal emperor Babur's court in 1528. Hindu groups say it came up at the very birth site of Lord Rama and needed to go.

Attempts by well-wishers to resolve the issue by holding discussions between Hindu and Muslim leaders have so far failed. The judiciary too has not succeeded in coming up with a solution acceptable to everyone.

While Ray felt the BJP was unlikely to revive the Ayodhya issue in a major way, Qaiser said the BJP was not raking up the row only because of electoral compulsions. BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said the demolition was a reaction to "discrimination against the majority (community)" - a euphemism to mean that Muslims had been pampered by successive governments.

But he quickly added: "(Now) both the majority and minority communities would like to move on with a new political mantra called development."Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia said that while the Babri mosque may have faded from headlines, it would never be forgotten.

He pointed out that communal tensions were resurfacing in parts of the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. "We should not be complacent," the veteran parliamentarian told.

(Agencies)

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