Babri Masjid Action Committee

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The Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) is an Indian non-governmental organisation meant for defending the case of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. It was set up by Syed Shahabuddin and Imam Bukhari in 1986. It continues to play a crucial role in the Ayodhya dispute.

Background[edit]

In 1984, the Hindu nationalist organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) adopted a resolution demanding the `liberation' of the site of the Babri Masjid.[1] It had been the contention of the Hindu parties since the British colonial times that the Babri Masjid sits on the birth place of the Hindu god-king Rama, and it had been built there by a noble of Babur after demolishing a temple dedicated to Rama. In December 1949, the activists of Hindu Mahasabha surreptitiously entered the mosque and placed the idols of Rama inside. The site was declared to be in dispute and locked by the authorities, even though the daily worship of the idols by Hindu priests was allowed.

Due to the political pressure exerted by the VHP as well as to counter the Hindu disaffection created by the passage of Muslim Women's Bill, the Rajiv Gandhi government is believed to have made arrangements to unlock the gates of the Babri Masjid. On 31 January 1986, acting upon an application made by lawyer Umesh Pandey of Ayodhya, a Faizabad district judge ordered the gates to the Babri Masjid be opened, providing the Hindus unrestricted access to the idols.[2]

Establishment[edit]

In the face of the Hindu demands for the liberation of the Babri Masjid, the Muslim community attempted to organise itself.

On 5 February 1986, soon after the opening of the gates of Babri Masjid to the Hindus, a Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee was formed under the leadership of Syed Shahabuddin, Janata Party politician and a leader of the Muslim community organisation Majlis-e-Mushawarat. In March, a larger organisation called Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) was formed with a number of other Muslim leaders including the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari. In the following months, the Movement organised satyagrahas in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi demanding a return to the status quo ante. In March 1987, a satyagraha in New Delhi is believed to have attracted half a million participants.[3][4][5]

These mobilisations prompted consolidation in the Hindu camp. The VHP set up a Rama Janmabhoomi Mukti Yagna Samiti (Committe to Sacrifice for the Liberation of Rama's Birth Place) with the involvement of queen-mother Vijaya Raje Scindia and prominent businessmen, which attracted highly revered Hindu ascetics. The Samiti organised a Maha Yagna (Great Sacrifice) in Ayodhya on 11 October 1988, in advance of a planned march by the BMAC to Ayodhya on 14 October. The growing tension between the two communities set off riots in various cities in Uttar Pradesh.[3]

The Home Minister Buta Singh urged the BMAC to suspend the march, together with a promise to lay the whole question in front of the Allahabad High Court. Syed Shahabuddin agreed to the proposal to the ire of the radicals within the movement, causing a split. Along with Imam Bukhari and Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, the radicals left to form the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) in December 1988. Syed Shahabuddin and the `moderates' represented by him increasingly used the name of the BMMCC.[6][5] This division caused confusion in the ranks. Most Press reports continued to call both the groups "BMAC" often referring to the AIBMAC as the "militant faction" of the BMAC.[7]

After the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December 1992, the two groups are said to have come together to form a united BMAC.[8]

Activism and rhetoric[edit]

Negotiations with VHP[edit]

During the Chandra Shekhar government (November 1990–March 1991), the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was providing outside support to the Government in the Parliament, wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that the historical and archaeological evidence surrounding the Ayodhya issue be taken into account in deciding the issue. This prompted Chandra Shekhar to invite the VHP and AIBMAC to the negotiating table chaired by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Subodh Kant Sahay. Also involved were Chief Ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of Rajasthan, and Sharad Pawar of Maharashtra. The first meeting took place on 4 December 1990. The BMAC was supported by historians R. S. Sharma, D. N. Jha, Suraj Bhan and M. Athar Ali. The VHP was supported by B. P. Sinha, S. P. Gupta, Harsh Narain, K. S. Lal, Devendra Swaroop and B. R. Grover. The four BMAC historians asked to be treated as independent historians, but it was not accepted by the VHP.[9][10]

The two sides exchanged evidence on 23 December. It was decided that the evidence would be divided under four headings: history, archaeology, revenue records and law. The evidence was to be examined by experts nominated by both the sides. The BMAC evidence consisted of legal records, statements of opinion and historical papers. The legal records included court proceeds from the British times. The statements of opinion were excerpts from books and newspaper articles. The historical evidence consisted of three papers: the text of inscriptions on the Babri Masjid, a section of Babur's memoires and Babur's will.[11] Arun Shourie, who has examined the documents, states that the opinion statements included such examples as Rama was a Pharaoh of Egypt and Sita was Rama's sister. The legal records showed that the mosque had not been in use since 1934, that it was in utter neglect, with its care-taker at one point haveing been an opium addict, and that various Muslim groups fought over rights to it, among themselves as well as with the descendants of Mir Baqi. They also showed that Muslim legal documents relied on British Gazetteers, even though it was now BMAC position that they were unreliable. Shourie concludes that the BMAC leaders had not read the documents before submitting them.[12]

The VHP made its evidence public on 10 January 1991.[13]

On 24 January 1991, the BMAC historians asked for further six weeks time to examine the evidence. The VHP did not agree. However, the BMAC historians failed to attend the meeting the next day. The experts of the revenue records subgroup likewise did not attend the meeting. The minutes prepared by the Government said that it was "reliably learnt" that Imam Bukhari did not wish to continue the dialogue.[9][10] Thus the first attempt at negotiations failed.

On 13 May 1991, shortly before the conduct of the General Elections, the four BMAC historians wrote to the Minister of State for Home Affairs regretting that they were not given access to the archaeological excavation records of B. B. Lal. It was a key component of the VHP evidence that Lal had reported the discovery of pillar bases next to the Babri Masjid during his excavations. Based on all the other evidence available to them they composed their Historians' Report to the Nation, which they submitted to the Minister.[14][15] They stated that they had asked the Government to appoint a panel of impartial historians to make a judgement on the historical facts. The government's response was "largely one of silence" and the VHP was unwilling, whereas the BMAC showed readiness. Nevertheless, in the Nation's interest, they claimed that they had scrutinised all the evidence submitted and provided their judgement. The Report questioned the VHP claim that the Hindus had long believed there was a sacred spot in Ayodhya where Rama was born and that there was a temple dedicated to Rama. They stated that the Ayodhya Mahatmya, the text cited for this information, was full of interpolations, some as late as the nineteenth century, and so could not be relied upon. They rejected the claim of B. B. Lal of having discovered pillar bases which were apparently leading into the Babri Masjid. The black stone pillars inside the Babri Masjid, which were said to be reused from the pre-existing temple in the VHP claim, were according to the Report brought in from the outside in order to decorate the Babri Masjid.[16]

The P. V. Narasimha Rao government, elected in 1991, revived the discussions in October 1992.[17] Rao stated that, prior to that, a Special Cell in the Prime Minister's Office sifted through all the evidence submitted by the two sides and created a summary.[18] According to the VHP and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the special cell surmised that the VHP evidence was overwhelming and that Muslim parties should be asked to move the mosque. The BMAC is said to have pressured the Government to withhold the Special Cell's conclusions from the public.[10] The Government never denied the assertions of the BJP.[19] According to Press reports, Rao told his team to avoid "cut-and-dried solutions."[20]

Prior to the negotations, in June 1992, new archaeological finds had been discovered in the process of leveling the ground surrounding the Babri Masjid. Archaeologists Y. D. Sharma, K. M. Srivastava and K. V. Raman, who had examined these finds, came to the meeting on 23 October 1992. The Government also made available B. B. Lal's excavation records to the experts. BMAC historians stated that B. B. Lal's trench had no finds corresponding to a stone temple, but rather of an "ordinary pillared structure." They also rejected the new archaeological finds since they were not found in a systematic excavation.[21] The RSS and VHP had meetings at the end of October, where a date was set for kar seva for temple construction.[22] The BMAC demanded that the kar seva be suspended. When this was refused by the VHP, the BMAC stayed away from the talks.[23][24]

On 6 December 1992, the kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid.


References[edit]

  1. Jaffrelot 1996, p. 363.
  2. Jaffrelot 1996, pp. 370-371.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jaffrelot 1996, pp. 372-373.
  4. Gopal 1990, pp. 220-222.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ahmad 2009, p. 170.
  6. Jaffrelot 1996, p. 373.
  7. Simmering cauldron, India Today, 31 August 1989.
  8. Kutty 1997, p. 168.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jain 2013, p. 166-167.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Bharatiya Janata Party, The summary of the VHP/AIBMAC dialogue in the year 1990-91 as made by the Government itself, extracts from BJP's White Paper on Ayodhya, Hindu Vivek Kendra, retrieved 2015-05-03.
  11. Jain 2013, p. 168.
  12. Arun Shourie, The Futility of Dialogue with Babari Committee, "As I see it" column, Observer of Business and Politics, 21 August 1992.
  13. Vishva Hindu Parishad, Evidence For The Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir, Presented to the Government of India on December 23, 1990, Hindu Vivek Kendra, retrieved 2015-05-03.
  14. Historians' letter to Minister of State for Home Affairs, 13 May 1991 (Noorani 2014a, pp. 375-376)
    Ramjanmabhume-Babri Masjid: A Historians' Report to the Nation by R. S. Sharma, M. Athar Ali, D. N. Jha, Suraj Bhan (Noorani 2014a, pp. 33-46)
  15. Allahabad High Court 2010, paras 3608-3611 (vol. 15).
  16. Jain 2013, pp. 176-178.
  17. The Prime Minister invites historians to discuss the Ayodhya issue (Noorani 2014a, pp. 383-385, from The Times of India, 30 September 1992)
  18. Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao's speech to the National Integration Council, 23 November 1992 (Noorani 2014a, pp. 394-398), from The Great Betrayal, All-India Congress Committee, 1993, pp. 16-23
  19. Srivastava, Sushil (1994). "The Abuse of History: A Study of the White Papers on Ayodhya". Social Scientist. 22 (5/6): 39–51. JSTOR 3517901.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. The tightrope talks, India Today, 31 October 1992.
  21. VHP-AIBMAC experts differ on ASI findings (Noorani 2014a, pp. 379-380, from Indian Express, 24 October 1992).
    Prof. Lal's findings scrutinized (Noorani 2014a, pp. 380-382, from The Statesman, 24 October 1992).
  22. RSS sets agenda for crucial VHP meet (Noorani 2014a, pp. 386-387), from Indian Express, 28 October 1992.
    Nothing can stop `kar seva': VHP (Noorani 2014a, pp. 387-388), from The Hindu, 1 November 1991.
  23. Jain 2013, pp. 181-182.
  24. Noorani 2014a, pp. 394-398.
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