On 6 December 1992, thousands of karsevaks—volunteers—climbed and demolished the Babri Masjid, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The karsevaks—who were led by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—believed the sixteenth-century mosque to be the birthplace of the god Rama: the Rama janmabhoomi. The days that ensued witnessed wide-scale violence, particularly against the Muslim community, and comprised a period of heightened communal tension in India.
Today marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. In the following excerpt from "The Road Back to Ayodhya" a story that was published in the February 2010 issue of The Caravan, Basharat Peer reports on the public sentiment in a post-demolition Ayodhya.
IN THE AFTERNOON of 6 December 1992, Tariq Masood, a ninth-grade student in Gorakhpur, western Uttar Pradesh, saw the television go black in the middle of a Doordarshan news bulletin. The electricity in the town was cut off for the rest of the day and the batteries in their radio were dead. A few hundreds kilometres away, thousands of karsevaks led by various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers had converged on the disputed site of Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi. Gorakhpur was under curfew. A phone call broke the news that the karsevaks had destroyed the Babri Mosque. Tariq sat quietly by his lawyer father, numb, watching him repeat the same words, “There must be a mistake. They must be lying.” In the days following 6 December, India was torn apart by a series of riots, which killed around 2,000 people, mostly Muslims. “For many years the destruction of the Babri Masjid shaped my life,” Tariq, now a 32-year-old IT consultant, told me when we met recently in Delhi’s Zakir Nagar area. “We went into a huddle. My father’s Hindu friends stopped inviting us home and we stopped inviting them to our ceremonies. I had no Hindu friends for years.”