A file photo: HT
A file photo: HT

Opinion | Ayodhya: A tale of demolition and restoration

The response of the majority community after SC’s order is a welcome change

How will history look back to the days of 6 December 1992 and 9 November 2019? The answer to this isn’t difficult. December 6 will be remembered as the day of demolition, and 9 November as the day when order was restored.

First, let’s discuss 6 December. That day my body was burning with fever. I was semi-consciousness, when the phone rang. My colleague, Ashok Pandey, deputed at Ayodhya, was speaking excitedly: “Thousands of Kar Sevaks have entered the disputed premises. Some have climbed up on the dome. The armed policemen are looking helpless. It seems now no one can save this structure."

News excites journalists. I got up, quickly dressed and rushed to my office. By that time people had started gathering on the streets. They wanted to know what happened. But there was no way of getting any information. State-owned All India Radio and Doordarshan maintained complete silence.

I was in a meeting with my colleagues when we were told that a mob had entered our building. The office was resonating with the chant of “Jai Shri Ram!" The additional district magistrate and the superintendent of police had noticed the crowd at the office, and walked into my room. They were worried about our safety. The crowd only wanted to know the actual news.

They urged me to address the crowd. Talking to an editor will give them some relief. When I came out of the office, I was taken aback. A huge crowd had gathered outside and were shouting slogans. I requested them with folded hands to have patience. We were printing the newspaper and, within a few hours, we will publish a special edition with every detail on Ayodhya, I told them.

When the crowd dispersed, we took a sigh of relief and started working. The only source of information was phone calls from our reporters on the ground, but it was difficult to get in touch with them. Around half-past-two in the afternoon hundreds of people barged into the office again. But what happened next was unexpected.

One man lifted me on his shoulders and headed for the main gate. The thousands who had gathered wanted to know the news. The police had left by then. I was scared that a stampede would took place. I asked the man carrying me to help me stand on the boundary wall of the Vaishya Hostel. Several hands literally tossed me over and helped me stand on the wall.

Somehow, with swollen tonsils, I recounted all that had happened, and requested them to return home. “We can distribute the newspaper only if you free me," I pleaded. Some wise men in the crowd finally made some space for me to return to office.

Soon after the city was engulfed in a communal frenzy. The administration declared a curfew, but the police did not seem to be interested in stopping mobs. Then, all of a sudden, senior BJP leader Satyaprakash Vikal stepped out of his house and started marching. People joined him one by one and the crowd swelled with slogans of Jai Shri Ram, Kasam Raam ki khaate hain, Mandir wahin banayenge. It was necessary to stop them.

Then I saw a unique example of the bravery of the police force. Karamveer Singh, the then senior superintendent of police of Agra, did not have enough men, but nevertheless he, along with a dozen constables and officers, wrapped a rope around themselves to block the massive crowd approaching the Ghatiya Azan Khan intersection. Singh said: “No matter what, we will not let anyone go beyond this point." Despite some pushing and shoving, the crowd gave in and returned home. Had Singh not shown such courage, the situation could have gone completely out of hand.

The religious frenzy had started degenerating the social structure, and the following days witnessed mayhem. More than 3,000 people were killed and property worth millions was destroyed.

Therefore, I am saying this with some happiness that 9 November will go down in history as the day when those embarrassing moments will be finally buried. At the time of writing this article, news was trickling in about Hindus and Muslims taking photographs in groups. In Orai, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, Muslim religious leaders greeted a Hindu Mahant with flowers.

But, was it because of the authority the present government commands, or was it a positive change in Indian society? Whatever it is, it is a welcome change. Some expressed their dissatisfaction with the court order, but it was within Constitutional limits.

November 9 is also Allama Iqbal’s birthday. The great poet had referred to Shri Ram as ‘Imaam-e-Hind’. Later though, he supported Pakistan, but we all remember him for ‘saare jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara…’. Is India heading towards a society which lives by the mantra of being better than the entire world? The answer will depend on the mood in India over the next days.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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