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India: Culture of impunity boosts rioters to attacks mosques

As furious mob attacked a mosque in Delhi, observers recall those who demolished Babri Mosque in 1992 remain unpunished

Shuriah Niazi   | 26.02.2020
India: Culture of impunity boosts rioters to attacks mosques

NEW DELHI, India  

A mosque in Indian capital Delhi’s riot-hit northeastern region became the latest target of a frenzied mob. The mob chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Rama) set the mosque in Ashok Nagar locality on fire, after climbing its minaret, pulling out loudspeakers and hoisting a saffron flag, used by Hindus in temples. 

Observers here say that attacking a mosque in the capital must have surprised many, but attacking religious places during communal clashes is a norm. Because, the cases against attackers hardly reach judicial closure. 

They recall that on Dec. 6, 1992, thousands of extremist Hindu activists and leaders aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had supervised the demolition of the 16th century historic Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh province. 

Police found 68 people responsible for the demolition, including several prominent leaders of the BJP and the Hindu outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP. But till this date, the case drags on in various courts. 

In the Babri Mosque demolition case, 49 accused have died. Those who are facing trial over the past three decades include former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishan Advani, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, some former ministers, and a few sitting members of parliament. After 27 years of investigations, the trial has not concluded and no one has been punished. 

Political observers in India believe that if justice had been delivered in the Babri Mosque case, then no other place of worship would have been attacked or desecrated. There is no legal deterrence against attackers, they said. 

The Indian Supreme Court on Nov. 9, 2019, decided on the land ownership of the Babri Mosque site and handed it over to Hindus for the construction of a Hindu Ram temple. The court, however, described the demolition of the mosque as a criminal act.

The Supreme Court lawyer Ehtesham Hashmi said: “Justice has not been done in the Babri demolition case so far. I believe this encourages anti-social and anti-national people to indulge in similar acts. They know that nothing is going to happen even if they attack a religious place belonging to Muslims.”

“They also believe that they may become a leader and can get support from the Hindu community for their actions and government will not take any action,” said Hashmi.

Punishment necessary for Babri mosque culprits 

Activist and politician Kavita Krishnan felt that punishing the perpetrators of the demolition of the Babri mosque was necessary. She said since the supreme court has itself described the demolition a criminal act, culprits should not go unpunished.

“And those responsible for demolition were never punished. I also talk about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when Sikhs were targeted under the Congress government. Then we have 2002 when Narendra Modi was ruling Gujarat and Muslims were attacked and killed,” said Krishnan.

“We want that 1984 and 2002 should not be repeated in Delhi. And why we are saying this because political forces were involved in the violence in the past. Had there been timely justice in 1984 and 2002 then probably that could have acted as a deterrent but this didn’t happen. The political leaders who demolished a mosque in 1992 are still out,” she added.

Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) chairman Zafarul Islam Khan said that attacking religious sites during riots has been a feature of all communal riots in India.

When asked whether attacks on mosques would have not taken place had the timely justice delivered in Babri case, Khan said: “Justice in the Babri case means adequate punishment to people like Advani who started the movement which led to the riots in which thousands of Muslims were killed and which culminated in the demolition of the historical mosque in December 1992.”

The clashes, which erupted in the northeastern part of Delhi on Sunday between pro-and anti-citizenship law protesters, have killed at least 24 people.

Delhi is witnessing worst violence more than two months after the government passed the contentious law, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities facing persecution in neighboring countries -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Critics see the new law as unconstitutional and discriminating against Muslims.

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