Anything that moves

10 villains of the Babri Masjid demolition and subsequent riots

‘December 6, 1992, and what followed jolted me out of the rosy view that India was special, a nation with a larger symbolic purpose.’

The razing of the Babri Masjid by a Hindu mob 25 years ago and the riots that followed destroyed my faith in the Indian nation and love for the city of my birth. Though far from the worst tragedy India has faced, it was a defining event for me because I was mature enough by 1992 to absorb its implications.

By way of explaining what I mean by losing faith in the Indian nation, I’ve listed 10 villains of the episode.

Lal Krishna Advani

His chariot traced a bloody path across North India in the autumn of 1990, inflaming communities and triggering riots. He was on a podium overlooking the Babri Masjid on the day of destruction, alongside colleagues like Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti who could not conceal their elation at the success of the plan. Having done more than any other individual to precipitate the demolition, Advani called December 6, 1992, the saddest day of his life. I’m not sure if he was being hypocritical or disingenuous.

The Sangh Parivar

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and associate organisations have single-mindedly promoted an anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, and anti-secular programme for decades. The Ram Mandir movement gave them unprecedented traction and ultimately control of the central government. In the early 1990s, radicals like Sadhvi Ritambhara energised massive audiences with slogans like Kaho garv se ham Hindu hain, Hindustan hamara hai; Jo hamse takraiyega, vo kutte ki maut yahaan par dekho maara jayegaa; Jahaan banii hai masjid, apnaa mandir wahiin banayenge; and Babur ki aulaadon, jao Pakistan yaa kabristan.

PV Narasimha Rao

He was India’s home minister in 1984, directly in charge of the Delhi police and capable of calling in the Army to quell disturbances. But he sat tight as Hindus butchered Sikhs on Delhi’s streets. As prime minister in 1992, he did nothing to prevent the mosque’s destruction, and then claimed to have been betrayed by the Uttar Pradesh state government. Considering it was a BJP government and had won the Uttar Pradesh election vowing to replace the Ayodhya mosque with a Ram temple, Narasimha Rao’s faith in it was absurdly naïve. Since he wasn’t a naïve man, it isn’t unreasonable to suspect his action was dictated less by trust than complicity.

Kalyan Singh

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who placed a gravely underequipped force to guard a structure he wanted demolished. He got what he wanted and had the ready excuse that he tried his best.

The Shiv Sena

The party directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds in the Bombay riots of January 1993. Its leader, Bal Thackeray, incited violence through the party’s newspaper Saamna, and let slip the dogs of war onto the city’s streets.

Police and security forces

They ran away from kar sevaks in Ayodhya, shot innocent Muslim protestors in Bombay while letting Hindu mobs run amok. All too few tales of police heroism emerged from those dire weeks.

MM Joshi, LK Advani and Uma Bharti.
MM Joshi, LK Advani and Uma Bharti.

The Congress party

It ruled the Centre as well as Maharashtra state through 1992 and 1993, and did little to prevent riots from breaking out and not enough to stop them. The state government set up the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry, whose report indicted specific members of the Shiv Sena and the police force. In future election campaigns, a pledge to implement that incredibly brave report was always part of the Congress manifesto, but nothing was ever done about it in practice.

The criminal justice system

The Liberhan Commission, set up in December 1992 to investigate the mosque demolition, submitted its report in 2009, almost 17 years later. What could possibly explain such dilatoriness?

In October 1993, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed conspiracy charges against 21 individuals, mainly BJP leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. The charges were dismissed on technical grounds by the Allahabad High Court in 2011, and restored by a Supreme Court bench earlier in 2017. Eight of the 21 people charged have already died.

Madhukar Sarpotdar, a Shiv Sena leader, was detained by an Army patrol on January 11, 1993. He was in a jeep with his son and other men including a wanted hitman. The jawans found a number of weapons in the vehicle including licensed and unlicensed guns, choppers and hockey sticks. Since Bombay was at that time an area where the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act was in force, carrying unlicensed firearms ought to have meant a minimum of 10 years in jail for the arrested men. Instead, Sarpotdar was booked under a less stringent law, finally sentenced to a year in jail in 2008, and immediately given bail. He died two years later, a free man.

These are only three prominent cases among hundreds in which the justice system failed victims of riots and the Indian constitution.

The Archaeological Survey of India

The ASI was substantially communalised in this period, and adopted Hindutvavadi myths like a link between the Saraswati river and the Indus Valley Civilisation. In the Babri Masjid case, archaeologists claimed to have discovered a Ram temple without even a proper excavation of the site.

The Supreme Court

The original dispute regarding control of the site on which the Babri Masjid stood was in the court for far longer than the demolition conspiracy case. After seven decades in various states of progress or limbo, the matter finally came up before the highest court in the land. The highest judge of that court simply refused to rule on the matter, asking the contending parties to try to resolve the issue amicably. What’s more broken, a system in which cases last longer than the average Indian’s life expectancy, or a system in which the Supreme Court abdicates its responsibility to take tough decisions? No need to pick, we have both.


It is hard to have faith in a nation in which some political parties commit crimes and others are too pusillanimous to take action against them, in which the police and even archaeological institutions display systemic bias, in which courts delay justice endlessly. Above all, it is difficult to have faith in a nation that regularly rewards mass murder.

Growing up, I believed India was special, a nation with a larger symbolic purpose, a leader of countries that had freed themselves from colonial rule and were seeking new kinds of equitable development. December 6, 1992, and what followed jolted me out of that rosy view. India remains special to me, but only because it is the place where I have lived for much of my life, and where most of my family and friends stay. I cannot see it any longer as a beacon, a representative of any form of liberty or equality even in the making. If we did make that tryst with destiny, we haven’t substantially redeemed our pledge, nor are we likely to do so in our lifetimes.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.