As the Babri masjid in Ayodhya was pulled down by marauding Hindutva activists exactly 26 years ago on December 6, 1992, something about India changed forever. The sweat and blood spent on the freedom movement that eventually led to the making of a remarkable secular Constitution was undermined. Every hammer that struck the mosque in Ayodhya dealt a simultaneous blow to the vision of a constitutional society based on equality, fraternity and secularism. The fabric of the society was partly torn, and we are still mending it one stitch at a time.
Behind the 1992 demolition of the mosque were leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, cheerleading the assault. Religion became a tool in the hands of the few who wished for a better political prospect. Twenty-six years later, the faces have changed but the idea of a Ram temple over the ruins of the mosque in Ayodhya remains the favourite tool of political campaign for the BJP and its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as is evident from the vitriol being used to fuel the simmering fire.
With the economy facing a tough time and the promise of development made in 2014 falling flat, the BJP and its associates have fallen back on Ayodhya to resurrect their political prospects, unmindful of the damage that this campaign is likely to do to the country.
Since October, the RSS has upped the ante on the question of the Ram mandir. In November, its leader Mohan Bhagwat said the Supreme Court does not have an understanding of Indian culture and that it was no longer necessary to wait patiently for the court to decide on the title suits that will determine the fate of the disputed site at Ayodhya. This rhetoric has been picked up with great zest by those in power. Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted the judges to work fearlessly, blaming the Congress for intimidating judges who wanted to hear the case.
A sustained campaign seeking a special law to build the Ram temple has begun, despite the fact that such a law is constitutionally impossible. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, facing criticism for failing to control violence in his state and instead focusing on cow protection, has proposed a mammoth statue for Ram in Ayodhya. Even the cosmopolitan faces of the BJP like Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have joined in, making comments in passing that a referendum will establish that the nation wants a temple in Ayodhya. Organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad want the announcement for the special law made during the kumbh mela in the coming months. As the Lok Sabha elections approach, such demands are bound to get louder.
All this is happening even as the Supreme Court has been doubly careful in dealing with the case that has the potential to fan communal feelings. The court has made it clear time and again that the matter will be dealt with as a property title suit and no more and has posted the next hearing to January. The Hindutva rhetoric in a way has transformed into a challenge to the very writ of the Supreme Court, whose judgement, some are suggesting, no longer matters. They want the people to believe that building a Ram temple in Ayodhya is only a matter of when.
On the 26th anniversary of the mosque demolition, it is important to remember that what is at stake is not the construction of a temple or a mosque but the very future of a significant population in the country and what the promise of equality means to them. It is a question of whether this large section will remain equal citizens or if they would be relegated to second-class status at the mercy of the majority. Such a situation runs contradictory to the dreams of the constitution makers. For the sake of democracy, it is important that this idea of a majoritarian justice is resisted.