Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eyewitness: How the Babri Masjid was felled: India News

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    • I had reached Ayodhya on the morning of  December 5, 1992 to witness, what was described as 'a rehearsal' of the much publicised kar seva that was to follow 24 hours later. That was meant to mark a token commencement of the construction of the much-debated Ram temple at the spot where a foundation stone had been laid at six years earlier.

      The proposed ritual was incredibly simple -- kar sevaks arriving from different corners of the country were to march down to the banks of the river Sarayu, barely a kilometre away, carry a fistful of sand and drop it in a pit specially dug for the purpose close to the site of the shilaniyas (foundation stone) carried out in 1986 during the Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ] regime. Simultaneously 101 saffron-clad sadhus were to knock their hammers on the specially erected concrete platform overlooking the disputed structure of the Babri Masjid. The fact that this drill was followed quite religiously led everyone to foresee a boring uneventful day ahead.

      The kar sevaks came in their turns and followed the announced programme. That was enough to make everyone believe  that  the saffron forces had come in for a major climbdown by settling for a symbolic kar seva.

      Not only the local authorities but even media persons from  different corners of the globe were willing to actually believe that the saffron brigade comprising the activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] and its allies, the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and  their common mastermind, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- had given up plans of  undertaking any drastic step.

    • Coming back to the scene on December 5, 1992, the day passed off peacefully. The day's only exciting event was the test drill by smartly turned out men of the then newly raised Rapid Action Force in their colourful gear. They covered the 7 km distance from Faizabad to Ayodhya in barely five minutes -- an unparalleled feat that not only evoked wide applause but also renewed confidence among the masses that nothing untoward would be allowed to happen.

      Officials patted their backs for such a 'high level' of preparedness, for any eventuality on the following day.

    • Even as the countdown began for the final showdown on the morning of December 6, no one suspected the intentions of the kar sevaks.

      Everything appeared to go as per the rehearsal until about 1130 hrs when a batch of kar sevaks, raising passionate Hindutva slogans sought to break through the human chain that was formed by RSS workers, to enclose the entire cemented platform.

      The idea, according to the local organisers, was to keep everybody other than the select band of 101 sadhus from stepping onto the platform. After all, these sadhus alone were detailed to perform the symbolic kar seva by knocking their hammers on the platform.

      However, the insistence of the kar sevaks to break the cordon led to a clash between them and the RSS volunteers on guard. Soon, a few local mahants (priests) led by Gyan Das, the chief priest of Hanuman [ Images ] Garhi  (Ayodhya's oldest temple) also moved in to assist the volunteers in keeping the kar sevaks away. The volunteers got thrashed by the kar sevaks for their trouble.

      What worsened the situation at this juncture was the announcement over the public address system, asking the people to stop beating each other. "Please do not beat up the kar sevaks; after all they are our own people." Far from bringing down tempers, this announcement provoked other batches of  kar sevaks to rush towards the concrete structure.

      Suddenly a huge band of kar sevaks from Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra, reached the spot, ready to teach the volunteers a lesson. A free for all ensued.

    • The clash with mediapersons allowed more bands of kar sevaks to converge on the platform. They headed straight for the mosque. The steel barricading that stood as the barrier proved no hurdle for them. In fact, many of them managed to pull out the steel pipes used in the barricade and charged at the structure. Soon there were thousands of kar sevaks armed with steel pipes or iron rods, swarming across the place and banging at the 16th century structure.
    • Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow