Ayodhya has changed the political discourse of the country with various events unfolding since 1949, after India started its journey as an independent sovereign nation on August 15, 1947.
The right-wing forces are blamed for doing so. But if we look back at historical developments on the issue, it appears the issue was already politicised during the successive Congress regimes, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, and the right-wing forces only built on to it.
It is worth mentioning here that it was during a Congress government, headed by PV Narasimha Rao, that the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December, 1992.
DECEMBER 22-23, 1949 – RAM LALLA IDOL PLACED: It was done by Abhiram Das and his colleagues, ending over 400 years of status-quo. Though the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was furious at the idol being placed in the Babri Masjid, that finally made it a disputed structure, he could never find time to visit Ayodhya even once.
FEBRUARY 19, 1981 – MEENAKSHIPURAM CONVERSIONS: A Tamil Nadu village, Meenakshipuram, saw a mass conversion, and was renamed Rahmat Nagar. It was the beginning of the ascendance of right-wing politics in the country. Talks of Ayodhya and Ram Janmabhoomi to be taken in a mission mode began here.
1984 – THE SHAH BANO CASE: The way Rajiv Gandhi surrendered before the compulsions of minority appeasement and overturned a Supreme Court ruling on a social malaise that was affecting millions of Muslim women, it further sent out a message that the government was ready to go to any extent to save its votebanks.
It also sent a powerful message that the government that was so appeasement centric that if it could overturn a historic decision of the top court of the land, it could never be friendly to the interests of the majority. And there were many takers for it.
FEBRUARY 1, 1986, ORDER TO UNLOCK THE GATES: Though a local court ordered it, the governments- at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh very complicit and they never thought to challenge it in a higher court.Instead, the padlock was immediately opened after the judge’s order who quoted his religious experiences while delivering the judgment.
The stand taken shows Rajiv Gandhi had started feeling the pressure of a parallel right-wing political movement taking shape and had chosen the most direct tool to reach out to the masses – religion.
1989 SHILANYAS OF TEMPLE BY VHP: It is said that both the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh and the Centre could have stopped it but their lackadaisical attitude helped the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple on November 10, 1989.
The VHP began a big movement and had already revealed the date but none of the governments took proper legal interest to stall its plans, a failure that emboldened the forces to such an extent that it resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE AFTERMATH THAT LED TO BABRI DEMOLITION IN 1992
1989-90 – JAN MORCHA AND MANDAL PROPOSALS: VP Singh, who was the then defence minister, revolted against the Bofors scam and formed a co-alition government in December 1989. He gave us the caste-based affirmative action, the reservation system that we follow today, through the Mandal proposals.ANTI-MANDAL VIOLENCE AND PRESSURE ON VP SINGH: Implementation of the Mandal proposals led to widespread demonstrations and violence. It increased pressure on the VP Singh government to such an extent that he had to go soft on Ayodhya.
But he could not reap the Mandal benefits as he was replaced by Chandra Shekhar in November 1990. Chandra Shekhar, who also lasted for only seven months, prompting mid-term elections. It was during the campaigning that Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1990: ADVANI KICKS OFF RATHYATRA – THE MANDAL SPIN: The BJP cleverly used the deepening Ayodhya sentiments and the anti-Mandal protests to its advantage. It could make voters believe that it was their right representative in these circumstances. The electoral gains made by the BJP supported it. The party that could win just two seats in the previous Lok Sabha polls in 1984, won 85 seats in 1989.
OCTOBER 30, 1990: Police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya led to five deaths. Mulayam Singh Yadav was Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister. 15 more kar sevaks were killed in police firing on November 2.
1991: While Congress came back to power in June 1991 with a government led by Narasimha Rao, the BJP’s also saw its first big political foray in the mainstream. It came to power in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. It was the beginning of the emergence of a political alternative in India that would make Congress like a regional party in 25 years, as the Congress’ situation is now.
DECEMBER 6, 1992: Babri demolition and the aftermath – the riots of December 1992 that engulfed the country. The Bombay riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and subsequent serial blasts in India’s financial capital that killed scores.