Faizan Muazzam Akhoon was just 16 days old when a mob of karsevaks tore down the 16th-century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992 after a campaign organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Yet, whenever someone recalls the day of the demolition, he feels aggrieved.
“Even if someone wanted a temple there, why couldn’t they build it adjacent to the mosque?” asked Akhoon, now a 26-year-old MBBS graduate who runs a private clinic in the outskirts of Srinagar’s Nowgam. “In Kashmir, shrines and temples stand side by side. Why can’t it be like that in Ayodhya? Why to demolish a mosque and start riots?”
He said his knowledge about the demolition did not come from school textbooks or teachers. Rather, he picked it up from the daily conversations among his friends and family. Later, there was the internet.
“I was born in war and, being a Kashmiri, I have seen a lot of disturbance and violence,” said Akhoon. “But the demolition of Babri Masjid was something different. It set off a storm of hate against Muslims in India and that hasn’t stopped yet.”
In Muslim-majority Kashmir, where the armed struggle for “azadi” raged through the 1990s, the Babri demolition had distinct repercussions. Akhoon believes it fuelled pro-“azadi” sentiments in the conflict-torn state. “In Kashmir, the demolition confirmed to many that there was no future with India,” he said. “Since it was a religious issue, it gave a boost to the anger against India. It still does.”
The demolition would have a direct impact on the young doctor’s life. His family did not want to send him, an only son, out of Kashmir to study. The decision seems to have been tinged with fear about the threats a Kashmiri Muslim might face outside the Valley.
“What followed Babri Masjid demolition is known to every one,” Akhood said. “The fear hasn’t gone yet.”
Despite Hindutva organisations and Bharatiya Janata Party leader ratcheting up demands to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the matter, Akhoon is hopeful. “If the Supreme Court rules in favour of Muslims, it might send a message that Muslims are safe in India,” he said.
This is the second part in a series of articles interviewing Indians born in 1992 about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to bring its plan to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya back to the political centrestage. The first part can be read here.