Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Demolition and The Verdict

After seeing my earlier post, a friend asked how I felt as a person when all that was happening.

This was something an RSS functionary had asked me some time after that tumultuous day in 1992. And I am giving the same reply I gave him - I first reacted as a journalist and I was excited - after all there was action; history was being made and I was there to report it; and above all, my story was right.

Let me elaborate.

I was working for a weekly newspaper, Sunday Mail, back then. The paper went to press on Friday evening and my story for Sunday was to be filed by Friday afternoon. On the basis of whatever I had got from November 30 (when I had reached Faizabad/Ayodhya) and December 4, my story (which was the lead) had said `Kar seva will mean construction' and detailed how the sadhus and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders had upped the ante.

But on Saturday afternoon, at a press conference, almost the very same people had assured that the kar seva would be symbolic and peaceful. I was worried - after all my story was going to be wrong!! All the other dailies had that as the headline. Mine was going to be the only one that said trouble was afoot.

So I was a bit low on December 5 evening and December 6 morning. Journalists had been given I-cards to go to the top of Manas Bhavan, which overlooked the kar seva site. But with nothing happening, many of us wandered down and positioned ourselves around the kar seva site.

So when the first stones stared being thrown at the Babri Masjid and it became obvious that there was going to be trouble, I was relieved (that my story wasn't entirely wrong) and excited. My first thought, I must admit, was `thank God my story is vindicated.' Vicarious, but true.

As I rushed around with other journalists trying to take in as much of what was happening as I could, I was only a journalist gathering information on a live event. I couldn't even react to the momentousness of the situation.

But later, after we were all holed up in Sitaji ki Rasoi, not being able to move around or even take notes (as the earlier post describes) the import of what was happening struck me.

This was the first time I was seeing mobs up close. I had seen mobs during the 1984 riots but from a distance, so never got the frenzy on their faces like I did in Ayodhya. I shivered and the cold of December had nothing to do with it. As I heard the first dome fall, I felt strange. There was a numbness within me.

That was the first time I was reacting as a person. And like I told the RSS functionary, I felt very sad. I just knew what was happening was wrong.

I felt even more sad when we were being taken back to Faizabad (where we were all staying) and saw diyas lit in practically every house, and the next day when a few of us managed to return to Ayodhya (from Faizabad where we were all staying) and saw that the looming black structure was no longer there. A few days before, I had been inside Babri Masjid; now there was only a skyline where it stood.

The sadness intensified as I moved around Ayodhya, probably on Tuesday, and found the house of Mohammed Hashim Ansari, one of the litigants in the case that was decided by the Allahabad High Court on Thursday, burnt, as were shops of Muslim artisans who made padukas. Mosques had also been damaged.

This was not the way the problem should have been resolved. I didn't have an answer then and don't have an answer now to the question - how should it have been resolved.

And there was anger - with politicians and community leaders on both sides, as well as the intellectuals who have stoked the fires in their own way.

They are still doing it. The two main parties have responded to the judgement with maturity. There's nothing to be said about Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, who are talking about Muslims feeling betrayed. They are irresponsible politicians who will never turn responsible.

But look at the statements from are the so-called intellectuals, who are talking in the same vein, some going so far as to say they feel like second-class citizens in India. These are provocative statements, guaranteed to stoke trouble. The average Muslims don't care about the masjid (just as the average Hindu doesn't really care about the mandir). They have other problems to deal with. Why are these people fomenting trouble where none exists?

The Sunni Wakf Board has decided to contest the judgement in the Supreme Court. It would have been best for these people to leave it at that. The appeal process and the final judgement may take years. Statements like these only serve to create wounds and lacerate them constantly.

1 comment:

Sunil said...

Totally understandable reaction, at the time of the incident. A journalist's first responsibility is towards his/her profession. On the response of the two main political parties, I must say, the BJP need not have spoken of a "grand mandir". That was gloating and totally uncalled's like rubbing salt in (supposed) wounds. But then, that is expected of the BJP!