When world was witnessing the realignment and reconsolidation of economic and political power during the 1990s, the Ayodhya debate in Indian politics was serving the cause of Hindu Nationalism and its flag bearers.
The decade of 90s witnessed the revival of the Hindu Nationalist movement, pressing for reclamation of three of holy Hindu sites at Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi, which the movement’s proponents claimed, had suffered at the hands of Islamic onslaught. Amidst such a scenario, the debate over Ayodhya surcharged the political atmosphere of the nation and its culmination saw the destruction of Babri mosque, changed the impression of India’s secular democracy before the world.
Although Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul praised the incident as "reclaiming India`s Hindu heritage" and the demolition of Babri mosque an act of historical balancing and “re-asserting” of Hindu pride, the development reopened wounds of partition that were on the verge of healing.
The demolition of Babri mosque was not a mere destruction of a medieval religious structure but a blow to Muslim psyche, which after partition had reposed an absolute faith in the Congress Party as the guardian of India`s secularism. Several questions started to plague Muslim minds, including over the benefits of extending their steadfast support to the Congress. The fallout can also be witnessed in the fact that after almost two decades, Indian Muslims are still at a crossroads.
It seemed that community figures like Syed Shahubuddin and Abdullah Bukhari would guide them to a better future, but they further added to the confusion and the Muslim community was at the mercy of leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and Lalu Yadav in Bihar- states where they were in great numbers.
Muslim community’s significance was restricted to the ballot box and successive governments failed to come out with any concrete plan for their welfare. The Sachchar Committee report has, however, highlighted the community’s plight across the nation though recommendations that are yet to be fully implemented.
Indian Muslims still need a visionary leader who can rise above caste and creed, so that a healing touch can be extended and the morale of the community can be boosted for their participation in the mainstream. The September 11 attacks in the US have made Muslims the target of anti-terrorism activities, and all over the world, they are viewed with suspicion. The riots in several parts of country have fuelled insecurity among them, which has further alienated them.
End of Congress monopoly & BJP’s folly
Prior to the nineties, there was an impression that a stable government can be provided only by the Congress party as the opposition unity had always been limited to short periods. The experiment of Janata Party and Janata Dal were examples of individual politics serving individual interests, but the coming of the NDA, under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajapyee, changed this perception. He successfully managed the coalition government and added a new chapter to Indian politics.
Although he ran the coalition government successfully, he had to sacrifice the pledge he made to his saffron cadres whose overwhelming support helped the BJP get the numbers to form government. The party failed to assess the damage as it was too busy in the celebration of uprooting of the Congress monopoly and the latter’s so called dynastic politics. The consequence was witnessed in 2004 general elections when the high flying campaign of BJP failed to match the ‘Aam Aadmi Ka Haath Congress Ke Saath’.
If the politics during nineties was on an emotional plank, it took a curious turn after 2004 when the nation witnessed the maturity of Indian electorate which gave credence to development and national security. The issue of Ram temple at Ayodhya, which once changed the course of Indian politics, failed to benefit the BJP even in Uttar Pradesh where it once got a record 60 parliamentary seats under the leadership of Kalyan Singh.
However, Indian politics has now moved to phase where Opposition is in a position to corner the ruling coalition on important issues, which was hardly a practice in Indian democracy earlier.
Reservation, Caste politics
Although the politics around Ram Janambhoomi had started during eighties under the banner of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the beginning of Rath Yatra in 1990 by LK Advani added a new colour to the movement. It is said that the purpose of Advani’s yatra was to foil the implementation of Mandal Commission report which had recommended reservation for OBCs, and also to save the greater unity of Hindu votes for his party’s benefit.
He, to a great extent, managed to turn the tide in the favour of BJP but it was for a brief period. After 1992, even in Uttar Pradesh the party failed to get majority and it had to reach a political understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The experiment yielded short term gains, as the BJP started losing political ground in the state and after year 2000 was relegated to third position behind SP and BSP.
The caste politics has more or less completed its vicious circle, but the elections are still being fought on the strength of a particular community in a constituency. That the relevance of caste is important enough, can be gauged from the fact that the present government at the Centre has had to compromise to conduct a caste-based Census.
Terrorism, communal violence
Despite being in power, BJP failed to capitalize on the demolition of the Babri mosque for long term benefits. Rather, the fallout of Ayodhya has been the rise of terrorism in India. Prior to December 6, 1992 there were stray terrorist incidents in Kashmir, and the rest of India remained untouched. But acts of terror are widespread now. The national and financial capitals have also unfortunately fallen victims to it.
Besides, the demolition of Babri Masjid was also followed by an outburst of communal violence throughout the nation, particularly in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Kolkata, Kanpur, Malegaon, Bhopal, Delhi and several other places where hundreds of people lost their lives. In this period, another trend was quite noticeable. The South of India, which was relatively free of communal violence, began to experience its tremors.
While it is true that after the demolition of mosque, the BJP failed to reap the benefit it sought, the fact remains that the Sangh Parivar perhaps achieved its goal of institutionalising and legitimising the debate of majoritarianism in civil society. Besides, it also managed to spark a debate over the message, hitherto unsaid, that the rightful inheritor of the nation is the majority community.