Like any other day, I spoke to my mother this morning, and she sounded more anxious than usual. I asked her “what’s the matter”? She said in a very weak voice, ‘dil ghabra raha hai’ (my heart is restless). I asked why, and she responded, “don’t you know?”.
My mind went everywhere in a matter of seconds and came back with nothing. I insisted on asking her what happened. I anticipated it might be some family drama, but it would have been unusual for her talk to me about something like that. She mentioned they are going to make a decision; just pray it’s peaceful after that. Suddenly, I recalled – yes, there is verdict which will be delivered today on the demolished Babri Masjid.
Most of my Hindu friends don’t have a clue about how, as minorities, we are always on the edge. They are probably not impacted in the same way. We have to be cautious, and aware, every second, of what could be the impact on us, and on our families, if violence breaks out. It’s unnerving to know that your family is vulnerable to violence, which is often actively supported by the state machinery and amplified by social, as well as, mainstream media. For you, it may be just some WhatsApp forward or some news; for us, that fear of violence is a reality we live with, every day.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid will remain a symbol of shame for the state of India; it will always be presented as an argument against India and Indian’s claim of being a just, fair, and peaceful nation or society.
One of the earliest memories I have of my childhood is being alone at our house, with my mother and younger brother. My dad had gone to a local political leader to gather news about the situation in the city, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.
Violence erupted all over India. Muslims, Muslim neighborhoods and their business were targeted. In the era when there were no social media, (thank God), not even a mobile phone to get the news, you had to switch on the TV or call people on the landline. My father went out to meet someone who he knew might have more of the latest news, compared to what was shown on the TV.
We were alone in the house, and suddenly, there was a loud sound, almost like someone threw a huge rock at our home. As a curious 7-year-old, I jumped and peaked outside our living room window; my mum screamed, “don’t go outside”. Someone just threw a grenade at our house, which, thank God, didn’t explode; and I saw it getting tangled in the drapes and slowing falling to the ground.
After an hour or so, my father came back home and called the police; it turned out that not only did someone throw a grenade at our house, they put a hand made a bomb in our car. They did this in case we tried to leave, to a Muslim majority neighbourhood; which we did, after a week, when the situation worsened.
I remember my dad somehow managed to get a van, (a car was a luxury, and not everyone had one), to get us out of our neighbourhood to a Muslim majority area. We stayed in a hospital which was under construction but had a few fully furnished rooms and a kitchen. We lived there for a month or so, while my dad stayed at our house during the night, to guard it, in case someone tried to vandalise it, after finding it abandoned. I remember praying every night for the safety of my father, who would only see us the next day when he came to visit us in the hospital.
I never speak about this, as I feel one day, I will be able to overcome this trauma. But speaking to my mother today, brought everything vividly back.