Thursday, December 6, 2012

India: Ayodhya 1992, Gujarat 2002, Mumbai 2012

Ayodhya 1992, Gujarat 2002, Mumbai 2012

Thursday , December 06, 2012 at 12 : 39  in IBN Live

Two decades is almost a third of the journey that independent India has covered since 1947. It's been a long journey, chequered with events that challenged, threatened and sometimes even sustained - in their own convulated way - the idea of the Indian state. The epoch begins with what happened in small-town Ayodhya on Dec 6, 1992 when a medieval mosque, labelled as a monument of Mughal pride and persecution, was pulled down by a frenzied mob of right-wing Hindu 'activists'. One need not go into the well-documented details of what happened that day.
The only aspect I want you to consider here for the sake of the argument I will be making later is that the demolition of Babri Masjid, organised by the BJP government in UP and tacitly supported by the Congress government at the Centre, was still considered an assault on the Indian state. It was constitutionally a 'crime' and therefore liable to prosecution, which of course did happen. That nobody has been punished yet for the demolition and its protagonists today grace the Parliament and dream of becoming the Prime Minister of the country is a different story.
Two decades later, there is a lot of talk about the nation moving on. Presumably towards less hatred and more 'development', thanks to another epochal event that happened a year before Ayodhya 1992 - the opening of the Indian market. But has the state really moved on? If so, then has the state moved forward on a trajectory of democracy, justice and equality, or has it actually regressed into a delusional and scarier behemoth? Let's consider another example on the 'decadent' (couldn't resist the pun) timeline as the title of this piece suggests.
Let's move a decade forward to an event that is again simply called Gujarat 2002, undeniably the most unfortunate event since Ayodhya 1992. How do we look at Gujarat 2002 vis-a-vis the Indian state? Well, we can't, because Gujarat 2002 was all about the state. It was a state-sponsored and organised pogrom against its minorities, the main protagonist of which has grown more powerful since the violence and represents the collective dream of Hindu middle-class as well as its corporates of becoming India's next Prime Minister.
So what changed? For the sake of argument, we can say with some comfort that the Babri protagonists were largely punished by India's syncretism. Of course, the BJP gained from Ayodhya 1992, forming a short-lived government in 1996 and then coming back to power in 1998. Yet, the protagonists of the demolition - Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi and even L K Advani - could never come out of its shadow. In contast, Narendra Modi's only claim to fame, if you will, is Gujarat 2002. Modi without the pogrom has no resume to flout or claim his legitimacy as the tallest leader in the same party.
Allow me to elaborate. What changed in a decade since 1992 - in the same BJP - was that while Advani, the supreme architect of Hindutva in India - could not become an accepted prime ministerial candidate because of Ayodhya 1992 and the violence that followed; Modi, on the other hand, has not only been excused from any prosecution by the law of the land for his role in Gujarat 2002, he is even the BJP's only consensus candidate for the prime minister's position.
In other words, while we may bask in the growing secularisation of the state - marked by a larger rule of law as well as open-market capitalism - the fact remains that the Indian state continues to be schizophrenic about its self-image. If Ayodhya 1992 was about a bunch of non-state loonies pulling down a mosque, Gujarat 2002 was marked by the same state being an active participant in a pogrom against its largest minority. While Ayodhya 1992 sought to correct a perceived historical wrong by erasing its material testimony, Gujarat 2002 did not even care to show any pretension other than a crude and violent majoritarianism.
Mumbai 2012, to move on and conclude, further complicates the pattern of the Indian state's failure to define itself in a more rational, democratic and more importantly, secular manner. By choosing to honour a rabid hate-monger who mocked at all the ideals a liberal nation is supposed to stand for, the state displayed its pathological schizophrenia like never before. The state funeral of Bal Thackeray, in other words, expunged him of his role in the killing of hundreds of Muslims in Mumbai post-Ayodhya 1992, which is just one among his and his party's many assaults on the state. Moreover, as the year 2012 closes, the killer of Gujarat 2002 is set to return as the Chief Minister of the state for a record fourth term.

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