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Babri mosque demolition: A 'watershed moment'

Babri mosque demolition: A 'watershed moment'
From Al Jazeera - December 5, 2017

New Delhi, India - On this day 25 years ago, thousands of Hindu nationalist mobs tore down a medieval mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The demolition of the 16th-century Babri mosque, which was constructed under the rule of the first Mughal Emperor Babar, triggered religious riots in parts of India that continued for months. More than 1,000 people were killed, in the worst religious riots since India's independence in 1947.

The tearing down of the mosque and the jubilation of the mobs created a permanent fissure in India's social fabric and instilled fear among India's Muslim minority.

It paved the way for the consolidation of Hindu majoritarianism and the eventual rise of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)the party behind the Ram temple movement.

Senior journalist Vidya Subrahmaniam has covered Hindu-Muslim relations for years, and she says December 6, 1992 was a "watershed moment".

In a way, with the demolition of the Babri Masjid, everything broke, there began a normalisation of the hatred between the communities.

Vidya Subrahmaniam, senior journalist

"In a way, with the demolition of the Babri Masjid, everything broke, there began a normalisation of the hatred between the communities. What it really did was, in middle-class drawing rooms, respected middle-class families started talking about Muslim as the 'other' and that 'Muslims deserved it'.

"The destruction of the mosque unleashed all the dark forces within the community," Subrahmaniam, who works for the Hindu group, told Al Jazeera.

Hindu supremacist groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - the ideological parent of the ruling BJP - and Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) want to build a temple on the site of the mosque. Many Hindus believe the mosque stood on the birthplace of the god Ram.

Left-aligned groups in the country are marking the anniversary as "Black Day." Protesters in New Delhi said the destruction of the mosque "remains the severest of attacks on the secular, democratic foundations of the modern republic".

But Hindu nationalist organisations across the country are celebrating the day as "Shaurya Diwas" (Victory Day).

"We have been celebrating Victory Day for the past 24 years since that structure was destroyed. It's natural that we celebrate. The monuments of slavery have to be destroyed," Surendra Jain, joint General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, told Al Jazeera.

"It was the glory, the strength, the bravery of the Hindus that we were able to remove that structure.

"This is a matter of pride for us that the Hindu temple will be built at that spot. There has been a lot of delay. Now we cannot delay any more," Jain added.

'A disputed structure'

On Tuesday, the Indian Supreme Court adjourned the hearing in the long-delayed case to February 8 next year. Earlier, a former chief justice proposed out-of-court settlement between the two sides.

Zafaryab Jilani, convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee that has been fighting the case on behalf of Muslims, dismissed talk of out-of-court settlement and negotiations.

"When they talk of solution they mean we should surrender our claim, and that's not possible. That will never happen, we will not surrender," Jilani told Al Jazeera.

"They are causing damage to the nation. The country has to revive its old values of secularism. Ultimately, they will not be victorious. The majority of the country is still basically secular," he said.

The legal dispute over the site of the Babri mosque, built in 1528, has been running for more than 60 years.

'Administrative collusion'

What has added to the grim scenario is the failure of the government, intentionally so, to implement the rule of law

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