Babri Masjid
Rear view of the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya.Wikimedia Commons

On 6 December 23 years ago, a violent crowd of around 1,50,000 kar sevaks from the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), workers from its political wing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and activists from other Hindutva organisations like the VHP, tore down the 16th-century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

The destruction of the masjid resulted in several clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities in several parts of the nation that killed at least 2,000 people.

The Babri Masjid was demolished over the claims that there once existed a Ram temple beneath it which was destroyed by Mughal general Mir Baqi who then built a mosque at the site, believed to be Ram Janmabhoomi (the mythological birthplace of Lord Rama).

Thousands of Hindutva activists armed with axes, hammers, and grappling hooks, tore apart the Babri Masjid and also indulged in the destruction of some other shrines in Ayodhya too. The incident angered the Muslims of not just Ayodhya, but several  across India.

The anger spread to Mumbai where hundreds were killed in rioting spearheaded by the Shiv Sena in December 1992 and January 1993. The demolition and rioting in Mumbai saw retaliatory riots by Islamic outfits culminating in over 300 people being killed in serial terror attacks in Mumbai on 12 March 1993.

Despite losing several lives thanks to internal religious conflicts in the past, India seems to have learnt nothing from the Ayodhya imbroglio. Once again, Hindutva organisations have intensified their demand to rebuild the Ram mandir (temple) regardless of the fact that the case pertaining to the rightful ownership of the disputed land is still not settled.

The Supreme Court in 2011 stayed the Allahabad High Court's order dividing the 2.7 acres disputed land in Ayodhya and distributing it among the Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha, and Nirmohi Akhara – a Hindu religious denomination recognised by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad and belonging to the Vaishnava sampradaya.

Several leaders of the ruling BJP have declared in public that Ram mandir will be built in Ayodhya. BJP parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj had in June said that Ram temple will be built during the BJP rule.

"It is certain that Ram Mandir will be constructed under the BJP rule. If it is not built today, it will be built tomorrow or the day after. We have completed just one year in power, four more years are to go...The temple was there and will exist forever. No person will be allowed to keep even a brick in the name of Babri mosque," PTI had quoted him as saying.

The ideological mentor of the BJP, the RSS, is pushing for speeding up the process to build the Ram temple. Paying tributes to late VHP chief Ashok Singhal, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said, "We have to make serious attempts to accomplish the Ram temple and that will be a true tribute to him." Singhal died on  17 November.

The voices for the construction of Ram temple are getting hoarser. The VHP has decided to speed up their movement in "realising Singhal's dream of a magnificent Ram temple in Ayodhya", for which it has called a large gathering in Ayodhya on 6 December to "chalk out the strategy to construct a Ram temple".

This has forced the state authorities to beef up security to ensure peace and harmony in the temple town.

The fear of the possibility of an unfortunate incident exists even after 23 years of the tragedy, which is a shame for a nation that claims to be one of the most religiously diverse nations of the world.

The political parties and Hindutva right-wing organisations need to understand that India does not need another movement for the construction of a temple, especially at a time when the "rising intolerance" issue over incidents like lynching of Muslim man by a group of Hindus on the rumours that he ate beef and killing of rationalist writers for criticising the Hindu religion, is a hot subject for debate in the nation.

India does not want more cases of rioting and destruction as in 1992, 1993 and 2002. What it wants now is the social and economic development of the nation and an environment where all religious communities can peacefully co-exist.

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