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Bigotry and Ideology in India and Kashmir: the Legacy of the Babri Masjid Mosque

With the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, (which authorizes an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four people in any area), in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, mainland India gets a small smattering of what Kashmir has been facing since August 5.

A disused sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid, was demolished by Hindu supporters of the Saffron movement who hoped to construct a temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi, on that site. Hindu-Muslim riots swept Northern India in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation in 1992.

Both sides attempted to create a new past for the nation. In the case of the majority Hindus, the militant Hinduism that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement incited challenged the basic principle that the nation was founded on: democracy.

Bigotry defined identities and ideologies, treating the idea of a multilingual, multiethnic, and secular nation as if it were a myth.

The Babri Masjid, an obscure little mosque, was destroyed by an unruly mob that rallied around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in 1992 was the second largest political party in India. By blatantly advocating and supporting the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its followers negated the legislation of the highest court of law in the land that sought to protect the site by staying its appropriation by any political party.

Today, the BJP is the largest political party in India, and the Supreme Court of the country has cleared the way for a temple to be built on the disputed site. Brute majoritarianism has superseded the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

National pride in BJP’s India is synonymous with majoritarianism and contempt for civility. It also reinforces the claims of right-wingers who label present-day Muslims “outsiders” or “invaders” in India.

Such claims ignore how communities grow historically within the framework created by a dialogic discourse.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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