Thursday, March 30, 2023

Babri Masjid and the politics of demolition

There have been calls from time to time to demolish other similar structures over the past 30 years.

A day before the Babri Masjid was demolished, BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, “..the ground has to be leveled”. Since then, right-wing forces have been keen to level the plains in India. Slogan, ” Babri is just a peep, Kashi Mathura is left”, testifies to the yearning that haunts India even today.

Interestingly, the demand to demolish such structures from time to time is not limited to one or two monuments. The urge to demolish has a history. There is a list of structures and monuments in India that are to be demolished. The list, reportedly drawn up by the Hindu Mahasabha, has been in circulation for a long time and currently numbers 880.

These 880 monuments established by Muslims are not just mosques, but include Idgah, Imambara, Baradari, cemeteries and tombs of Sufi saints. The largest of these, roughly 281, are tombs and mazars of Sufi saints and common Muslim cemeteries.

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There have been many instances when mazars And the graves were either attacked by mobs or demolished on the orders of the government. including the demolition of seven mazars in UP’s Mathura in 2018, ordered by the Adityanath government, in Barabanki in 2021, and Mazar Between Chaubeypur and Shivajipur, Kanpur, further vandalism in 2022 by government officials mazars Jalalshah, Bhureshah and Qutubshah in Bijnor. Similar cases were also reported in Gujarat and Uttarakhand.

The year 2022 alone has reportedly seen more than 12 demolitions Shrines.

thought of erasing

In November, Home Minister Amit Shah said that “fake mazarsGujarat’s demography has been cleaned up as part of the BJP-led state government’s “cleansing” policy. He emphasized in his speech at different times that mazars And graves are just illegal encroachments and thus they will be removed.

mazarsTombs and tombs of Sufi saints are places where people of all religions and sects visit religiously as compared to mosques and mosques. Idgah, the existence of mazars They exemplify India’s multi-cultural past and are a living example of pluralism and co-existence.

It seems that the RSS is afraid of the shared cultural heritage of various religious communities in India, and hence wants to eradicate the idea that Muslims and Hindus can peacefully co-exist in the same land.

The graves remain a living mark of the existence of Muslims in India and in fact to paint them as infiltrators and aliens, the Sangh Parivar needs to erase the basic evidence of their historical existence.

This is what is shown by the statements and speeches given by the right wing leaders mazars And tombs have been prime targets.


History shows that such activities are not confined to India. Since 1948, Israel has been demolishing Palestinian cemeteries and mausoleums.

Shortly before, the Jerusalem Municipal Corporation had demolished several tombs near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Many graves were also demolished in the Eusefian Cemetery, one of the oldest Muslim cemeteries in the city of Jerusalem, one of the most important cemeteries in the Old City.

Mamilla, another important and historical cemetery for Palestinian Muslims, was also demolished to build the Museum of Tolerance.

Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi claims that before the establishment of Israel in 1948, all public religious institutions, such as mosques, churches, cemeteries and holy places, were managed by communal authorities.

After 1948, when more than 400 Palestinian communities were destroyed, all Muslim endowment property in the country was confiscated by Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property. Holdings eventually passed into the hands of government organizations such as the Israel Land Authority, the Jewish National Fund, or private individuals.

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Just a few weeks earlier, in November 2022, when the Eknath Shinde government in Maharashtra was removing encroachments around Afzal Khan’s tomb in Pratapgarh (one of the tombs on the list of 880 sites for demolition), Anand Dave, president of the Hindu Federation Openly threatened to demolish it. He urged the government to destroy Afzal Khan’s grave, failing which the Hindu Federation would act.

The situation is similar in many small towns and suburban areas of India. According to reports, ‘demolition’ lists are now readily available and available on the internet, and attacks on graves, cemeteries and religious places are on the rise.

Many fear that once these monuments are removed from India, it will become easier to spew venom at Muslims by portraying them as foreign.

Ali Faraz Rezvi is a theater artist, activist and student of preventive conservation.


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