6 December 2005 : Old Lessons, New Challenges

6 December is remembered as a black day in contemporary Indian history. A reminder of that traumatic hour when modern India was held hostage by the savage forces of barbarism, when the 'secular' Indian state revealed the depth of its bankruptcy and impotence to facilitate the frenzied demolition of a medieval mosque by the goon squads of the Sangh brigade.

As a spectacle of modern-day barbarism, 6 December 1992 can well be bracketed with 6 August 1945 when the US had first bared its nuclear-powered imperialist fangs to erase the whole city of Hiroshima in Japan from the face of the earth. But while in the case of Japan , the attackers had come from outside, in our case, they were very much from within. And they were not faceless shadows from the so-called terrorist-extremist fringes, but celebrities from modern India 's 'political mainstream'.

Thirteen years since the invasion of Ayodhya, the celebrity invaders and demolishers are still enjoying their protracted tryst with state-power. Not only have they secured impunity for all their extra-constitutional crimes, but periodically they also enjoy the licence to make laws and administer them against their chosen targets. From Ayodhya they have marched to Ahmedabad via Delhi , and now having hit the electoral jackpot in Bihar , they are working overtime to choreograph a fresh communal script all over the Hindi heartland.

While the communal brigade is eyeing new destinations, the camp of 'official secularists' is reeling under the weight of the poll debacle suffered in Bihar . In fact, this is the second major occasion when 'official secularists' have suffered such a huge rout in Bihar . We must remember that between 1999 and 2004, when the NDA managed to last a full term at the Centre with a clear majority, much of that strength came from RJD-ruled Bihar , which contributed more than 40 MPs to the NDA's tally in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections. Now with Laloo Prasad's first resounding defeat in an Assembly election, it has been comprehensively proved that secularism can flourish only as an integral component or feature of a progressive and democratic polity, it can never survive as an add-on to an otherwise undemocratic and retrogressive regime. Strengthening of radical Left and democratic politics is the only real and effective way of weakening and defeating communalism.

To come back to the issue of Ayodhya, the NDA and the UPA now sing the same line of abiding by judicial directives. What is the judiciary really to decide? As far as the country is concerned, the only question of public importance is to convict and punish the architects of the demolition campaign. But successive central and UP governments have displayed a clear lack of political will on this score. The case that is currently being talked about has nothing to do with the criminal act of demolition, it is just another title suit to decide 'trusteeship rights' over the 'disputed land'. But can Ayodhya really be reduced to an ordinary land or property dispute? On the eve of the 150th anniversary of India's first war of independence, the great uprising of 1857, secular Indians must boldly assert that in the event of the mosque not being rebuilt the only other acceptable alternative can be a national memorial dedicated to the great martyrs of 1857.

Tailpiece : Thirteen years ago, every picture from the demolition site at Ayodhya had Uma Bharti jumping in delirious joy in the company of Messrs Advani and Joshi. Today, the 'victor' from Ayodhya is playing 'victim', all her 'triumphs' having allegedly been 'misappropriated' by a party she now likens to an aeroplane with two pilots and four hijackers. She claims to have been a victim of three types of 'bias' within the party leadership - gender, caste and class, and she is vowing to come back with the real BJP, with the true spirit of Ayodhya unleashed in a new avatar.

Well, we can not expect the sannyasin politician to mention 'religion' as another source of the BJP's 'bias'. But will she ever realise that millions in this country have already experienced in a far deadlier degree what she calls a mere 'bias'? Over the last two decades India has been relentlessly haunted by hate campaigns, witch hunts, carnages, pogroms and genocides that Uma Bharti has co-authored and co-perpetrated in the august company of her mentors-turned-tormentors, and does she now really expect to garner public sympathy as a victim? What you describe as 'bias', and what many in this country have experienced as nothing short of a persecution campaign, is what has all along defined and driven the Sangh parivar, and there can therefore be no sympathy, Umaji, for all your cries of a new and real BJP.