"Mazhabon waale poochhte hai ab / Kisne pehle kudal maari thi / Koi kehta hai ek masjid thi / Koi kehta hai ek mandir tha"
When Suzanna Anna-Marie Johannes begins falling in love with Wasiullah Khan, spell-bound, as the chinar trees sway in the breeze, the shayar is reciting lines that remind the entire gathering of a black day in the history of modern India. December 6, 1992. A near-150,000 strong mob of Hindu kar sevaks tore down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. As the red dust settled on the ground, it took along with it the dream of a secular India.
India plunged into chaos following the demolition. From Bombay to Bangladesh, places burnt. The scene of kar sevaks with pickaxes and bright yellow headbands, as chants of " Ek dhakka aur do / Babri Masjid tod do " rent the air, comes back to haunt the country every year on the sixth day of December.
WHAT HAPPENED ON DECEMBER 6, 1992?
Dilip Awasthi, whose detailed report from the site was carried by the India Today Magazine on December 31, 1992, wrote, "The scenes will return, like deranged ghosts, to haunt those of us who were at the graveside to witness the burial of a secular dream. The screams of exultation with each blow of a pickaxe, each thrust of a rod, each dome that came crashing down."
The three domes of the 16th Century Babri Masjid, that sat on the Ayodhya horizon, were razed to the ground by hordes of fanatic kar sevaks.
"The forest of gleaming trishuls raised high in militant victory. And, the twin plumes that snaked to the skies: the dust from the demolished structure, and smoke from nearby Muslim houses torched in the orgasmic fever. Religion was their opium and it returned Ayodhya to the medieval ages," wrote Awasthi in his report.
December 6, 1992, was the day that was to mark the beginning of the construction of the Ram Mandir at the disputed Ram Janambhoomi in Ayodhya... the very spot where the Babri was. The kar sevaks who had gathered in Ayodhya to partake of the proverbial prasad, being part of the construction of the Ram Mandir, were close to two lakhs. But the government and the courts were assured by the BJP that the 'kar seva' was to be merely a symbolic act. That no damage would be caused to the mosque.
That assurance by the BJP leaders came as a huge blow to the kar sevaks who had congregated at the venue. These men were listening to speeches by VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) leaders. "Trouble first broke out in the space below us when young men wearing bright yellow headbands managed to break through the barriers," wrote Mark Tully, in his account of the day for the BBC.
Tully went on to describe how journalists were beaten up by the kar sevaks. The mob soon reached the security cordon and the policemen in charge of guarding the Babri Masjid. The barrier fell.
After that, it was apocalypse.
The near-two lakh kar sevaks stormed the gates and climbed up the domes of the Babri Masjid. With pickaxes and hammers in hand, " sir pe kafan baandh ke " this " Bajrangi ki fauj " reduced the Babri Masjid to rubble.
At 11am, the first group of kar sevaks broke through the barricades. It was 1.55pm, according to Awasthi's account, when the first dome of the Babri Masjid met the ground, along with about 25 kar sevaks. At 3.30pm, the second dome came down. The central dome is demolished at 4.49pm. In about six hours, all that remained of the Babri Masjid, was dust.
After news of the Babri Masjid demolition broke, riots erupted all across the country. Muslim houses were torched in Ayodhya, while Hindus were slaughtered in Bangladesh. Months of riots left cities trying to cripple back to normalcy. Bombay saw one of the worst incidents of communal violence in the history of modern India.
In March 1993, a series of bombings rocked the city of Bombay. Madness followed.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
In the last 25 years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the event and its aftermath found their way into popular culture. A handful of films have dealt with the Babri demolition; more, with the communal clashes and bombings that followed.
Mani Ratnam got on the director's chair and crafted a work of art. Named Bombay, this 1995 film was an attempt at portraying human relationships in the backdrop of communal tension. Bombay covered the time period from the demolition of the Babri Masjid to the riots in the city. The film starred Arvind Swamy and Monisha Koirala in the lead roles and is still considered among the actors' best performances.
Black Friday, 2007
Director Anurag Kashyap made his Black Friday on the 1993 Bombay bombings. The censor board stayed the release of the 2004 film, and it finally saw the light of the day in 2007. With Indian Ocean's haunting score and the song Bandeh, Black Friday, today, is listed among the most definitive films on the 1993 Bombay bombings.
Slumdog Millionaire, 2008
Danny Boyle's British-Indian film does not deal with the Babri demolition or its aftermath, per se. The film opens with the five-year-old Jamal and his brother Salim fleeing Bombay following the riots.
7 Khoon Maaf, 2011
The black comedy that made Priyanka Chopra a name to reckon with, despite the film not tasting commercial success, has a fleeting mention of the Babri Masjid demolition. A mesmerised Suzanna listens to Wasiullah Khan in Kashmir, as the poet recites lines from his work. Lines, that talk about " Koi kehta hai ek masjid thi / Koi kehta hai ek mandir tha."
"Mandir yeh chup hai / Masjid hai gumsum / Ibadat thak padegi."
(The writer tweets as @ananya116)
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