9/11 has always been a date to dread ever since 2001 when the New York twin Towers were bombed down by a terror attack. This year too, 9/11 left a feeling of dread in the hearts of many as the Supreme Court gave a verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue… In this article, Zafar Anjum traces the Ayodhya movement from the 1990s to pause on a pertinent question he had asked in his short story published in 2015, ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ — “…what is more pleasing to God? Your temple after destroying a mosque or the suffering of those whose place of worship you destroyed?”
While TV journalists and anchors dissected the verdict and its fallout, my mind briefly traveled back to 1992, the year the Babri Masjid was demolished. I was studying at Aligarh Muslim University then. The Ayodhya movement was at its peak and we knew that something sinister and violent was going to erupt, so we made our way to our hometown in Bihar in late November. I was at my maternal grandfather’s place when the news came of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We saw the then Prime Minister of India Narasimha Rao appear on TV and offer apologies and shed some tears. Later on, we learnt that Rao could have done more to stop the demolition but he chose not to. Through Rajiv Gandhi and later through Rao, the Congress Party had, wittingly or unwittingly, made its own contributions to the Ram Temple movement.
Even though we were hundreds of kilometers away from Ayodhya, we could still feel the tension. The small town that we lived in had slipped into a benighted silence. TVs were not that common in those days, so we depended on radio broadcasts and newspapers. For days on end, there were no newspapers delivered in our town. When the curfew was lifted, I cycled around the town looking for newspaper vendors. I gathered some Urdu and English newspapers and when I handed them over to my nana (maternal grandfather), I saw him going through the pages in silence. It was very painful to watch him slowly digest the news of the Babri demolition. Something had changed that day for good.
Years later, I wrote a short story titled “Kafka in Ayodhya.” In this imaginary story, the German writer Kafka travels to India to meet his friend in Ayodhya. The story is set around the time when the Allahabad court verdict had been announced. A journalist asks Kafka, “Do you think it is unjust to build a temple where Lord Rama was born?”
“How do you know young man,” he says, “what is more pleasing to God? Your temple after destroying a mosque or the suffering of those whose place of worship you destroyed?”
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