What triggered the Mahabharata war? Was it the disrobing of Draupadi? Did that arrogant act destroy the Kauravas? Could it not have been avoided by Bhishma declaring the gambling match null and void?
The demolition of the Babri Masjid has been like the Mahabharata war, an issue of epic proportions. The guilt of L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti has not yet been proved in a court of law, but nor has their innocence. The final decision to build the temple on the site is still stuck with the Supreme Court, which has to rule on the Allahabad court verdict.
Ram Janmabhoomi epic begins not in 1992 but at the same time as Independence. Jawaharlal Nehru may have been secular but his cabinet was not. Hence the sneaking in of the idols late at night despite locks at the site. Then Rajiv Gandhi matched his Shah Bano decision with a concession for the installation of the Ram Lalla. Thus, 40 years after Independence, during the bright days of secularism, the seeds of the battle had been firmly planted.
The failure of the Congress to win a single-party majority in 1989 awoke ambition within the Sangh Parivar: the BJP could become the biggest party on the back of the temple movement. So there were rath yatras, with the predictable reaction of Lalu Prasad stopping Advani. But, eventually, it was not the BJP leadership which gathered at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and destroyed the mosque, but the Bajrang Dal and other young activists who have yet to be fully tried. The violence of that episode sent shocks across the world. Widespread communal riots were incited in December and climaxed in the bombing of Mumbai in March 1993.
P V Narasimha Rao failed to either stop the original attack or bring the issue to a speedy end. The Liberhan Report took forever and again nothing got settled. Even in 2017, we have no finality about who was responsible for December 6, 1992. What the episode did was to begin the long process of the decline of the Congress. First it lost UP forever by alienating the Muslim vote.
The Congress has not recovered its primary place in North India. The young rebels of the Bajrang Dal and BJP wanted to take historic revenge for what they thought was the sorry period of Muslim dominance in (North) India. They would destroy a mosque as the symbolic revenge for the many temples which they believed the Muslims had razed to the ground. Yet, it did not bring the BJP any quick fruits. In three elections, 1996, 1998 and 1999, it did not win a majority but was stuck around 180, a hundred short of majority. The mosque may have been smashed but the temple was not built.
The historic picture is of an abandoned building with people climbing all over destroying it. The dispute is about building a temple on the very same plot where the mosque was. But there are 67,000 plus acres in the area which have been sealed off. There is land enough to make Ayodhya a global showpiece for the multi-faith civilisation that India is. Why not build a temple, mosque, gurdwara, a Buddhist vihara and a church?
That would be the perfect example of sabka saath, sabka vikas.