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HomeKashmirEchoes of the past: Anantnag Kashmir's day of defiance against Babri demolition

Echoes of the past: Anantnag Kashmir’s day of defiance against Babri demolition

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Meer Irfan

“It was an ocean of people. When we reached the general bus stand, we noticed the BSF personnel with the loaded guns pointed at us. They fired in the air, and people ran for cover, most of us leaving behind our slippers and shoes,” said Riyaz Ahmed, a resident of Achabal adda area of the main town Anantnag in south Kashmir.

Riyaz Ahmed was a part of a procession that was taken out in Anantnag town, a day after the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992.

As we delve into this harrowing chapter of history, it’s crucial to understand the backdrop that fueled the emotions of the protestors.

The Babri Masjid, situated in Ayodhya, India, was constructed in 1528–29 (935 AH) by Mir Baqi, a commander under the Mughal emperor Babur. This historic mosque became a focal point of dispute between Hindu and Muslim communities, with many Hindus asserting it was erected on the purported birthplace of Rama, a principal deity in Hinduism.

In the 19th century, conflicts between Hindus and Muslims over the mosque escalated, leading to several court disputes. In 1949, idols of Rama and Sita were placed inside the mosque, prompting the government to lock the building to prevent further disputes. Subsequent court cases were filed by both Hindu and Muslim parties seeking access.

On December 6, 1992, a large group of Hindu activists, associated with the Vishva Hindu Parishad and allied organizations, demolished the mosque.

This event triggered riots across South Asia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom, resulting in the tragic death of around 2,000–3,000 people.

In April 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched a campaign advocating Hindu access to the Babri Masjid and other structures believed to be built over Hindu shrines.

Rath yatras (chariot processions) were organized to raise public awareness, temporarily halted after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 but revived in multiple locations in October 1985.

In 1986, a local lawyer named Umesh Chandra Pandey appealed to a court to remove restrictions on Hindu worship in the Babri Masjid premises.

Following the appeal, the Rajiv Gandhi government ordered the removal of locks on the mosque gates. Prior to this ruling, only an annual Hindu ceremony performed by a priest was allowed. Afterward, all Hindus gained access to the site, and the mosque began serving some functions as a Hindu temple.

The legal battle continued, with both Hindus and Muslims asserting claims over the mosque. In December 2019, the court declared the disputed land a matter of faith for millions of Indians and ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

On January 22, 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed the return of Lord Rama while laying the foundation of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

With this historical context in mind, let us return to the chilling December day in Anantnag, where Riyaz Ahmed and thousands found themselves part of a procession against the Babri Masjid’s demolition.

The day

“It was a chilling December day, the sun had just come out in the morning, and Mirwaiz Qazi Nisar had announced on Sunday that a procession would be taken out from the Jamia Masjid of Anantnag town against the demolition of the mosque by Kar sevaks,” recounted Riyaz Ahmed, a resident of Achabal adda area in the main town of Anantnag, South Kashmir.

On that unexpected day, thousands congregated at the mosque compound, their anger evident through slogans raised against the RSS and the mosque’s demolition. “It must have been around 10 in the morning; most of the people had come in slippers, as it was a comparatively warmer day,” shared Javid Ahmed, another eyewitness.

Even those initially hesitant to join the procession became part of it after a fiery speech by Mirwaiz Qazi Nisar Ahmed at the central mosque of the Anantnag district. Javed, who was present with his father, recalled, “In his speech, he stressed on the need to stop the Hindutva brigades at the crucial juncture. He also emphasized that the ideology may seem far from Kashmir, but the times are not far when they will occupy the mainland of India, and then Kashmir will also face the brunt of it.”

Reflecting on that moment, Riyaz noted, “Many of us perceived that the idea was alien and could never happen, but after 32 years, all of his words seem to be coming true.”

During the early gathering, rumors spread about BSF personnel deployment in the town, creating panic. However, the impact of the speech on the loudspeaker worked wonders. “We don’t know where the people popped up from. But thousands of people, irrespective of their gender, came to the mosque and joined this procession,” said Riyaz Ahmed, who was 21 at that time.

Banners, handcrafted by individuals, adorned the procession, and an artist of exceptional skill swiftly drew the mosque on a large sheet of paper.

“It was less than ten minutes, I believe, and he made it in the compound of the mosque. And that banner was later carried at the front of the procession,” remembered Riyaz.

The procession commenced around 10:45 A.M., hearts filled with both anger and fear. “Militancy had just started, and the operation catch and kill implemented. People had seen brutality every day, and fear had become the dominant part of everyone’s existence,” expressed Riyaz.

A glimpse of the protest in Anantnag town that was taken a day after the demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya Uttar Pradesh

“I have never heard sloganeering as loud as that procession. People raised pro-Islam and anti-RSS slogans and demanded the mosque be restored,” emphasized Riyaz. Women on rooftops witnessed the procession, praying for the safety of those marching, amidst bunkers erected by forces, multiplying movements, scarcity of peaceful protests, and the engulfing militancy.

“A woman came to Qazi Nisar Sahab and pleaded not to go any forward, stating that she was worried for his safety. At this moment, Qazi Nisar held his son and picked him up on his shoulder, displaying him to the crowds, stating that if the bullet was to hit anyone, let it first hit my son,” recalled Javid.

The procession continued for nearly an hour, reaching the General Bus Stand, densely occupied with people. “We reached the exit of the bus stand, which leads to KP road and saw a huge chain of BSF men, all looking violent, having blocked the exit. They all looked angry and pointed their guns at us. But we marched ahead, and when we did, the forces fired endless bullets in the air,” narrated Javid.

Riyaz looked back and saw people running for safety, many trampling over each other. “I do not know what I saw after, but I ran and ran until I reached a rice field, where thousands of people were hiding. The spot was far from the firing. I saw most of those in the procession were bare feet,” recounted Riyaz.

Javid sought refuge in a shop, where many others piled up. “Many of us were praying for safety for just one day while many others insisted that we must maintain silence as the forces may come and fire indiscriminately at the shop, killing us all,” remembered Javid.

As chaos unfolded, many ran directly to their houses. Only Mohammed Ahsan and a few others remained at the spot. The BSF men dispersed off the protesters, leaving behind thousands of slippers at the General Bus Stand.

“I, Qazi Sahab, and the other person picked them up and packed them in several sacks and then carried them on a cart to the Jamia Mosque of Anantnag. We announced that people who had left their slippers must collect them from the compound of the mosque,” said Mohammed Ahsan, a grave digger from the town.

On their way back, at least five hours after the incident, they crawled for most of the way. “But thank God, he saved us that day,” expressed relief in Riyaz’s voice.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Azadi Times staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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