Finally, the High Court of Allahabad passed a judgment regarding the ownership of the place where the Babri Mosque stood. There has been a mixed response to the decision. Some have hailed it as an end to communal violence, for now at least, whereas others deem it fit to herald the downfall of the secular credentials of the Indian state.
There is no denying the fact that the demolition of the Babri Mosque was a horrible incident in the Indian history, where a group of extremists showed disdain for the culture, heritage and religious sensibilities of a nation.
But the question is, are the Hindu extremists the only ones to be blamed for such an atrocious act?
Following the destruction of the mosque, there were hundreds of non-Muslim buildings, not just Hindu, that were destroyed in Pakistan. Thousands of angry people took axes and other such weapons, climbed these structures and wrought permanent damage to them. Gunmen entered the Nila Gumbad Valmiki temple, according to a testimony, assisted by local traders. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
It is reported by the witnesses of the event that not even iron from the fans and the ceilings were spared. This is one day after the demolition of Babri Mosque. Similar was the fate of the Jain Mandir, which used to greet people from far away coming towards the Jain Mandir chowk, standing tall above the rest of the buildings. Now the structure lies destroyed in the very vicinity it once stood proud.
Even though the demolition of all of these temples is a severe loss to the entire nation and, in particular, the Hindu community, there is one temple, the lamentation of which is the loudest from the Hindu community in Lahore. This is the Sitla Mandir, part of which is still standing in between the Lohari and the Shah Alami Gates. This was the most famous temple in the pre-partition setting, after which it was occupied by the Evacuee Trust Board and rented out to the people pouring in from the other side of the border. After the mosque was attacked, the very next day, people which included the new inhabitants of the temple and others, destroyed the smadhs and the temples (there are a few others in the vicinity) by climbing on top of it. At the entrance of the Shivala, before the Sitla Mandar, if one is entering from the Hospital road, there is a picture of a young boy called “Shaheed”. He is said to have climbed to the top of the temple to bring damage to it, whereas the rest of the people were busy destroying it from the base. When the top eventually broke off, this boy was still on it and became a “Shaheed”. At the cone of the temple there is a plate which reads “Ya Allah”. There is an operative Madrasa inside the temple. The Qari of this place is said to have led the procession to destroy the temple, which served as his sanctuary. He later sold the ownership of the roof of the temple to another family for Rs 60,000, as narrated to us by an old lady from the family. He no longer serves at the temple, Madrasa.
While protesting against the demolition of a sacred shrine in India, these people didn’t see the irony in doing the same action in their own locality. Secondly, these temples became the people’s home when they migrated from India.
When the Hindu community was approached as to why they didn’t take the issue to the court, they said that they were in such a small number and the general attitude of the authorities was of such bigotry that there was no point in making a fuss about it. An old member from the community remarked how the situation of 1947 was recreated after the Babri Mosque incident. Many Hindus, he recalled, didn’t leave their abodes for days.
Now after the verdict, he said, they felt the same kind of fears. Fortunately, no untoward incident has happened so far but they are not sure about the future.
One only wishes that such a process is initiated in this country against the people, who were responsible for destroying temples like Jain Mandir and the Sitla Mandir. Even the secular smadh of Ganga Ram, the man who changed the outlook of Lahore was not forgiven. Amongst the other temples that were desecrated are the Moti Mandar (named after the father of Jawaharlal Nehru) at Shah Alami, Shivala Pandit Radha Krishan at Gumti Bazaar, Bheru ka Sthan at Ichhra and Bhadrakali at Niaz Baig.