It has been 26 years since the Babri Masjid demolition, 26 years lie witness to India’s ‘secularism’.
On 6 December 1992 in the name of organizing a rally,1,50,000 Hindu Kar Sevaks of the Bharatiya Janta Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad turned violent after hate speeches delivered by some veteran politicians of the BJP. This was followed by the Hindu Kar Sevaks demolishing a 400-year-old mosque – Babri Masjid. Some blamed the state government of the time and BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani, Uma Bharti, and Murli Manohar Joshi, while some blamed Narasimha Rao’s central government’s failure to uphold secularism in the country. Whatever the case may be, the ramifications were direful. This outrageous incident took the lives of over 2000 people around India in riots sparked by the Masjid’s demolition.
What happened can never be reversed. On the 26th anniversary of the demolition, all we can do is condemn the incident and offer condolences to the families of people who lost their lives to the dreadful riots.
But, think again? Is that really ALL we can do?
No. I think as the future of the country, we can help India restore its secular values and work as #YouthWagingPeace in our respective communities. We can put a stop to the divide – and -rule politics of these party leaders.
I come from a place, where such incidents are very common. Hindu-Muslim communities keep clashing over the smallest of issues to establish dominance in their communities. We all witnessed footage of the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. They had started at a place called Shamli – my birthplace. I have grown up with very conservative Hindu values and was taught and expected to despise people from the Muslim community. For 20 years, I did pretty well and believed I could never get along with Muslims. As far as I remember, I never had any Muslim friend until this August 2018!
For me, even coming into contact with a Muslim individual and having an interaction used to be a fearful experience because of all the insecurities and deep-rooted fears that would keep reminding me to quit and never indulge with the ‘other’ community in any way. Alas, if I go on about my experiences, this article would never end.
What really matters is the turning point in my life, that made me question my beliefs, my faith, the religious teachings I was raised with, and my ways of living with Islamophobia.
This August, I returned from a place called Kotri in Rajasthan where I volunteered with Manthan – an organization working with the village community to address the challenges faced by them. This experience was the one where I pushed myself off the edge of my own boundaries and reflected on my own inadequacies. The conflict within me was never-ending. If you’d have asked me then to sit and peacefully engage with people from all faiths, I’d never do it even in return for something precious. I lacked the very values and experiences which help a person live peacefully in a diverse society – without any fear of violence or assault from an ‘other’ community at any point. These insecurities take a deep root in your psyche, and are really scary! Your mind doesn’t develop coping mechanisms to deal with such situations.
After returning from Rajasthan, I took up the SMILE fellowship offered by a Delhi based NGO called Pravah. I had the freedom to build my own project and I chose theme Communal Harmony and Interfaith. It was a personal issue that I connected with and wished to work on. The experience so far has been extremely challenging and I feel as though I am yet to achieve something big working on the project is taking up most of my time and effort. I need to struggle with breaking my own stereotypes, build my own perspectives before I can take it to society. The fact that it is a sensitive issue doesn’t help and working to change people’s mindset gets demotivating at times.
However, throwing myself out of my comfort zone and communicating with people who don’t come from my religion particularly follow Islam has been life-changing. And my only appeal to those reading this is – you should do it, too I know it can be scary, but these experiences that really help us grow to be more accepting. If you can’t change yourself to seek such experiences, you are essentially part of the same cluster of people who keep ranting about India not being secular but choose to not change anything about it
On this day, as a reminder to never go back to the state of hate that was spread all over India 26 years ago, I beg of you to take up the mantle of building communal harmony and interfaith dialogue in your own communities. I bet it will be an enriching learning experience and work to wage peace.