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Returning to Ayodhya 25 years later: For sons of men killed fleeing, this dispute is not quite over

Subhash Pandey and Mohammed Shahid live in different parts of Ayodhya but share a common story — of life at a standstill from the time they lost their fathers.

Written by Rakesh Sinha | Ayodhya | Updated: December 6, 2017 10:59 am
Mohammed Shahid, Subhash Pandey in Ayodhya. (Express Photo by Praveen Jain)

Their fathers died running. Within two years of each other. One, a Hindu kar sevak, was felled by police bullets on November 2, 1990. And the other, a Muslim sawmill owner, was chased and killed by a mob of kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.

Subhash Pandey and Mohammed Shahid live in different parts of Ayodhya but share a common story — of life at a standstill from the time they lost their fathers, their world destroyed in the frenzy that gripped Ayodhya and the country a quarter century ago.

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Subhash was 10 years old when the body of his father, Ramesh Pandey, was discovered in a bylane not far from their home in Rani Bazar. “I don’t know whether he was shot while trying to get atop the dhaancha (Babri Masjid) or cornered by the police and killed. I could never find out. All I remember was performing his last rites. There were bullet marks on his body.”

On October 30 and November 2, 1990, police opened fire on kar sevaks trying to storm the Babri Masjid. The official death toll was 16, and it included Ramesh Pandey. “My mother Gayatri was never the same after that. My grandmother took care of me, my younger brother and two sisters. My younger brother was in my mother’s lap when father was killed. I gave up studies after Intermediate (10+2) because I had to look after the family. I married young and have three children. The eldest, a daughter, is in college.”

Subhash works for a daily wage at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad karyashala, its workshop for the proposed temple. “I get by with what I am paid. The VHP helps out whenever I am in desperate need of money. It took care of my education, and met a major part of my wedding expenses. Ashok Singhal (VHP leader who died in November 2015) would always check on me as long as he was around. Now, Champat Rai does it.”

He believes his father died for the right cause. “The Ram temple is what all Hindus want. My father wanted it, and I want it. I know we have had a very tough life after he died, but he died for something he believed in. The temple has to be built. I work in this karyashala because it is here that the columns and slabs for the temple are being readied.”
His supervisor at the karyashala, Swadeshji, agrees. “Have you been to the Ram Janmabhoomi? Look how they have turned the whole place into one giant cage. Can you imagine our anger? Is this how you treat the gods? It is time all obstacles are removed, and the temple built.”

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There’s not much activity at the karyashala but Swadeshji says work for the first of two storeys of the temple is over. “We are ready with what will be needed. More red sandstone from Bharatpur is coming. Most of our master craftsmen are from Gujarat, some are here, some will return soon.”

Unlike Subhash who has found work, Mohammed Shahid moves around on a cycle, trying to find work every day. He is the grandson of Haji Abdul Gaffar, the imam who led the last namaz at the Babri Masjid on December 22, 1949, before Hindus scaled the walls and placed the idol of Ramlalla beneath the central dome of the mosque. Shahid’s father Mohammed Shabir and uncle Mohammed Nazeer were killed on December 6, 1992.

“I was 22 years old. Our house became an easy target because it is on the main road. Someone alerted the mob that this was a Muslim home. My father and uncle tried to flee. They were chased and killed. The mob torched the shed where we had a saw machine, and our supplies of teak and sheesham. Wood and machine worth lakhs were destroyed, and we were left with nothing.”

Shahid says all that the family received was Rs 2 lakh in compensation for the death of his father. “We are four brothers and four sisters. Since I was the eldest son, everyone expected me to look after my mother and siblings. What was I to do? The mob burnt everything, destroyed our lives. It has been 25 years now, you can still see what’s left of the burnt shed and the saw machine. I am unemployed now. So I go around asking people for work. There are days when I get some work.”

His grief and misery have hardened him. “Never shall we give up our claim to the Babri Masjid land. Muslims who talk of an out-of-court settlement are selling out. But I can’t live without honour.” For Shahid and Subhash, the battle for Ayodhya is not quite over.

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    1. Suresh Shah
      Dec 6, 2017 at 2:57 pm
      Delay in handling site for Ram Temple has only made the BJP stronger and stronger
      1. Suresh Shah
        Dec 6, 2017 at 2:56 pm
        India is a peace loving hindu dominated country which is why people are still fighting for justice in court - no where in the world will people have such tolerance
        1. Suresh Shah
          Dec 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm
          Sunni waqkt board will for responsible for any loss of lives caused due to delay in the settlement as their lawyer Mr Sibal is more interested in politices which has been the practices of the congress party for last 70 yrs
          1. blackpower 666
            Dec 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm
            how about those hindutva rapits, gangrapists, lynchers, arsonists, looters, destroyers of lives and livelihood - that saffron mob that destroyed an architectural monument?
          2. Nitin Deolekar
            Dec 6, 2017 at 11:29 am
            मक्केत मशिदीला जागा नाय? अशी कवी-कल्पना कोणी दिवा-स्वप्नात तरी करू शकतो का?? पण १०० कोटी हिंदूंच्या भारतात मात्र सारे काही प्रत्यक्ष घडते आहे..धन्य-धन्य ते सेक्युलर सैतान !! भारतात स्वातंत्र्यनंन्तर सत्तेवर आलेल्या ढोंगी-सेक्युलर-सैतानांना साधा समान नागरी कायदा सुद्धा करता आला नाही? त्यामुळे आता इथे गरीब मुस्लिम तरुण धर्मांध आयसिस अतिरेकी विचारणा बळी पडत आहे हे कटू सत्य आता कसे आणि कुठवर झाकणार?? पुढील ७० वर्षे महान?बुद्ध आंबेडकर यांचा हिंदू नागरी कायदा उलट करण्याची नितांत निकड आहे!! अल्प-संख्य बंधूना १-पत्नी कायदा करा चीनचा कुटुंब कायदा लावा: १-कुटुंब-१-मुलं, त्यातूनच त्यांची खरी प्रगती होईल !! चिनी सारखी, भरभराट होईल!! आंबेडकरी कायद्याने नाडलेल्या शाह बानो सारख्या लाखो मुस्लिम भगिनींना बीसी कोट्यात आरक्षण द्या..सानिया मिर्झा कडून शाळेत टेनिस शिकवा, मदरसा वेद-पाठशाळा १८ वर्षापर्यँत बंद करा. आणि हिंदूंना २-शादी लेखी-तलाक चे हक्क प्रदान करावेत. ७० वर्षांनंतर समान नागरी कायद्यासाठी प्रामाणिक-प्रयत्न जरूर करावे!! आयसिस ला आता कोण रोखणार? गांधीचा नोटेवरचा फोटो?? कि नेहरूचा पूत?कि आंबेड
            1. blackpower 666
              Dec 6, 2017 at 11:34 am
              RSS NAZ_i! you are in desperate need of a girl friend to channelise your impotent revisionist rage borne from hindutva, fear, shame, and cowardice! you need to get out of your org - RSS - and learn about the birds and the bees! suggest you take a trip to ajanta, ellora, sun, khajuraho, read the rig veda and kama sutra
              1. M
                Dec 6, 2017 at 11:49 am
                No one is stopping you from Li-King the Italian half cut Deek,---your mother who blended over now your sister will be bending over to lick the hang loose Italian half cut carrot like a lollypop and will say oh yes ra-h0le is a JISU avatar of 21st millennium,----JISU will show his Deek,---he wa a g-a-y anyway,----Jai hind.
                1. blackpower 666
                  Dec 6, 2017 at 11:57 am
                  michelle x x x the vedic pornstar!!! ha ha ha - learnt your skills in nagpore from that famous school - rashtriya shcool of seks sadomasochism and scat ology! have you seen shiva's dik in africa, antarctica, north pole, micronesia? how bout tristan da cunha?
                2. blackpower 666
                  Dec 6, 2017 at 11:42 am
                  btw - this is a forum for those knowledgeable in english! if you arent conversant in english pl start with ABCD...not sure if you will ever reach Z though!
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