Delhi Diary: Protest at progress on Babri Masjid issue

December 6 marked as a black day

On December 6, the seventh anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, both houses of Indian Parliament witnessed heated exchanges.

In the Lok Sabha (Lower House), the Home Minister, Advani, an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, was at the receiving end when the Opposition questioned his propriety to reply to queries regarding the Babri Masjid demolition.

Congress Party deputy leader Madhav Rao Scindia said, "How can the case progress when the prosecutors and the accused are the same people?" Santosh Mohan Deb of Congress expressed surprise how Mr. Advani was sworn in as an MP although he was an accused in the criminal proceedings in the case.

Mr. L.K. Advani stressed that the question should have been disallowed. But he said later that his government was concerned about slow progress in the case relating to the mosque demolition.

Mr. Ghulam Mahmood Banatwala, the president of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) expressed dissatisfaction and said that he could expect no better from an accused in the case.

Mr. Banatwala wanted to know whether the Government had plans to reconstruct the demolished structure on its original site and hand it back to Muslims.

The Opposition demanded resignation of three ministers: L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Tourism Minister Uma Bharti. They demanded that the three keep out of the government till the disposal of the case.

In view of the uproar, the Speaker, Mr. Balyogi adjourned the House until 2 p.m. Upon resumption, he again adjourned the House until 4 p.m.

The Rajya Sabha (Upper House) was also in uproar. Opposition members took exception to Shiv Sena member Sanjay Nirupam's remark that Mughal emperor Babar had built the disputed structure (Babri Masjid) after demolishing the Rama temple. Mr. Mohammad Azmi of Janata Dal was provoked to respond that Babar never carried out the demolition of the Ram temple. Opposition leaders led by Dr. Manmohan Singh asked the Government to speed up the trial and bring the guilty to account.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi termed the demolition of the Babri Masjid a blot in the history of the nation. "L.K. Advani is himself an accused in the case. There can be nothing more unethical and unjust than such a person responding to queries on the issue," she asserted.

Several demonstrations were held all over Delhi. The All India Babri Masjid Rebuilding Committee held a demonstration near Parliament House, demanding the mosque be rebuilt on its original site.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee and the All India Babri Masjid Coordination Committee jointly organized a conference to protest the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The conference demanded expeditious disposal of the Masjid demolition case.

A similar demand was raised by the activists of the Babri Masjid Reconstruction Front, who staged a sit-in near the Parliament Street area. The Delhi regional chapter of Congress Party staged a daylong protest. "All of us observed the day as an anti-fascist day," said a party worker.

Protests were also held across the country. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, more than 1,000 people were arrested. Ali Sena chief M. A. Chand and his supporters were taken into custody when they attempted to reach the site of the Babri Masjid. Mr. Mohammad Azam Khan of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, demanded that the court order which prohibits entry of Muslims within 200 meters of the disputed site be withdrawn.

Almost all shops and business undertakings belonging to the Muslim community remained closed throughout the day in Ayodhya.

30,000 Kargil Muslims with no shelter

The approaching winter poses a survival challenge to over 30,000 displaced Muslims of Kargil in the Kashmir Valley. They lost their homes during the encounter between Indian and Pakistani forces. Hundreds of houses were blown up during nearly 10 weeks of clashes. Animals are also starving, as there is a serious shortage of feed.

Normally, in December, temperature nosedives to minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Celsius, which amplifies their problems since the state and the central governments have left these people to fend for themselves. Despite promises, the state government, which is reeling under financial crunch, cannot help. There is no hope for re-construction of their homes this winter.

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