The Big Story: Too little, too late
The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to kick-start the trials in the Babri masjid demolition case. The court put veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti, among others, on a joint trial under various charges, including criminal conspiracy to destroy the mosque as well as promoting enmity between groups.
The demolition of the Babri masjid is arguably the most significant event in the history of the Indian republic. The movement was led by BJP leader LK Advani, who piloted a road show across India in 1990 to galvanise support to have the mosque demolished. The BJP believed that mosque stood on the spot the Hindu god Ram had been born.
Eventually in December 6, 1992, the early Mughal-era mosque was torn down by volunteers of the Sangh Parivar. The authorities stood paralysed as thousands of people clambered atop the mosque’s domes and dstroyed them in a single afternoon. This act of vandalism set off the worst riots the subcontinent had seen since Partition in 1947.
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement, as it had been known, transformed the fortunes of the BJP. In 1984, the BJP had just two seats in the Lok Sabha. But by the 2000s, it eclipsed the Congress as India’s largest party at the national level. In 2014, Narendra Modi, who had played a key role as a backroom organiser of Advani’s road show, become the first BJP prime minister to win a full majority in the Lok Sabha. A promise to build a Ram Mandir was included in the party’s manifesto for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election.
The delays in the case ensured that Advani’s career could proceed uninterrupted. On Wednesday, Union water minister Uma Bharti, who has also seen an eclipse in her political career of late, was unapologetic about her role in the episode, immediately calling a press conference to declare that she was “ready to bear any sentence” for the cause of the Ram Mandir. One of the main architects of the movement, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ashok Singhal, died in 2015 before the Indian justice system could decide how to try him.
Mass crimes conducted in the name of religion in India almost never result in convictions. This includes the prominent cases of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat and the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. Why the Indian justice could not have tried Advani just after the demolition – but waited two and a half decades till he diminished into a political lightweight – will remain an abiding mystery.
The Big Scroll
- The Supreme Court order on Advani in the Babri demolition case is a win-win for Modi, writes Dhirendra K Jha.
- Has LK Advani, the former future prime minister, just become the former future President of India, asks Neerja Chowdhury.
- The Union government has cleared funds for buying voters verifiable paper audit trail machines that leaves a paper trail of votes.
- The Border Security Force has dismissed the jawan whose video complaining about bad food went viral.
- Only three categories would be allowed to use the red beacon in India from now on: the President, Vice President and Chief Justice of India.
- China “standardised” the names of six towns in Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which Beijing claims as “South Tibet”, a week after the Dalai Lama visited the frontier state
- Taking on the trolls: Just like in a physical space, social media users should come together to protect other members of the community and reclaim our virtual public spaces, writes Osama Manzar in the Mint.
- In NDTV, Mihir Sharma criticises the breathless praise for Modi in “getting” Vijay Mallya.
- The Hindu nationalist tradition is not alien to West Bengal, argues Swapan Dasgupta in the Telegraph.
Reporting from Pulwama, Ipsita Chakravarty and Rayan Naqash explain why Kashmir’s students are facing off against the security forces
“The turbulence has also meant that students cannot imagine a future. Naveed Dar only knows he wants to get out of an increasingly violent Pulwama as soon as he can. Neither Farooq nor Naveed Dar have career plans. ‘We never got to think about it,’ said Farooq. ‘When you have to think whether you’ll make it to the next day, it changes things psychologically.’”