This week’s episode of Pradhan Mantri dealt with one of the oldest and most violent disputes in India political history – The Ayodhya Dispute. Not only has this been the most controversial events of India since Independence, the events surrounding it have been equally debatable and critical to history.
The episode begins with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s oft-repeated speech on the occasion of Kar Seva, a ritual held before temple construction, defending the procession held on the 6th of December 1992. The very next afternoon, a man is seen situated atop one of the domes of Babri Masjid, indicating the breaching of the multi-layered security arrangement in that direction. Within minutes, hundreds of Kar Sevaks rush toward the Masjid, breaching security in all directions and clashing with the police. The climb onto the three domes of Babri Masjid, and within in time all three domes have been demolished. This is showing using a combination of archive photos and video, many of which are unseen.
The actual run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition starts in 1949. One very influential saint in Ayodhya claims that he has seen Lord Ram in the Babri Masjid, kindling once again an already prevalent dispute, which had formerly receded out owing to the national movement. People rush to the Masjid to have a glimpse of the Lord, and religious talk reignites in Ayodhya, leading to strong anti-Muslim sentiment.
A case is filed in the Faizabad High Court, asking for the gates of the Masjid to be opened. The case goes on for quite a few years, until the Shah Bano Case (mentioned in the previous episode) causes strong Hindu opposition for the Congress. In an attempt to please Hindus, the Congress joins the Ayodhya dispute, fueling the debate, with the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi repeatedly visiting Ayodhya. In the meantime, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is busy in talks with other political parties, including the BJP, about building a temple in place of Babri Masjid, known to them as Ram Janmabhiimi (the place of Rama’s birth).
Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Congress, though under pressure regarding the Ayodhya dispute, won the election by a huge margin, but is unable to gather Muslim support. PV Narsimha Rao, the new Prime Minister, enters into talks with the BJP and VHP, which ultimately break down. These talks are all acted out, including the then PM and LK Advani.
The VHP holds a yatra in 1991, which meets huge gatherings and support, pressurizing the government even more. Land is provided to the authorities very near the Masjid, and they begin Kar Seva before building. A huge rally is held, with open air vehicles, in which were seated Vajpayee, Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. What happened during the Kar Seva is not hidden from us.
The leaders of the BJP have faced allegations from all corners about whether they could have stopped the demolition and riots. Questions have been raised and politicians tainted, but to no avail. Nevertheless, the Babri Masjid Dispute remains one of the most hotly debated topics in Indian politics, with multiple rulings, but no ultimate result.
This episode lacked the trademark short acts, with most of it containing only archive pictures and interviews. Still, it was only as good as the rest.