Destroying the Soul

The BJP may have won the fight against Muslims but the soul of
Indian democracy has been destroyed in the battle.

By Atif Shamim Syed | October 2020

Three decades ago, the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) made an explosive entry into mainstream Indian politics when it began a country-wide agitation for demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pardesh. The BJP demanded construction of a temple in place of the mosque – a place which many Hindus believe is the birthplace of god Ram.

Narendra Modi first caught the eyes of the BJP leadership when he played a pivotal role in arranging the Ram Rath Yatra, a procession of hardcore Hindu nationalists leading from his hometown of Gujrat towards the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya.

The episode became a boon for the BJP. Its share of vote almost doubled and the party emerged as a formidable opposition to the secular Congress. The Babri Mosque was destroyed by BJP rioters in 1992. The communal riots that followed the mosque’s destruction claimed thousands of lives. However, the Babri Mosque – or what remained of it - continued to fuel BJP’s election campaigns because the courts were unable to decide what should be done with its ruins.

Narendra Modi continued to grow within the ranks of the BJP. He was young, driven and extremely efficient. His political career received another boost when a train full of Hindu pilgrims caught fire in his native state. These pilgrims were coming back from Ayodhya. 59 are said to have perished in the train fire.

The BJP was quick to point fingers at Muslims. Communal violence started once again with the tacit acceptance of the state administration. Around 1,000 Muslims lost their lives in the ensuing violence. Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujrat at the time. He was later cleared of the charges of inciting violence but the episode is still hailed by many BJP activists as the starting point of the reversal of fortunes of the Indian Muslims.

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