Babri mosque: India’s Muslims feel more abandoned than ever

 Babri mosque: India’s Muslims feel more abandoned than ever

Nearly three decades, 850 witnesses, more than 7,000 documents, photographs and videotapes later, a court in India found no-one guilty of razing a 16th-Century mosque which was attacked by Hindu mobs in the holy city of Ayodhya.Among the 32 living accused were former deputy premier LK Advani, and a host of senior BJP leaders. Wednesday’s court judgement acquitted them all, saying the destruction of the mosque in 1992 had been the work of unidentified “anti-socials” and had not been planned.This was despite numerous credible eyewitness accounts that the demolition, which took just a few hours, had been rehearsed and carried out with impunity and the connivance of a section of the local police in front of thousands of spectators.Last year, India’s Supreme Court conceded it had been a “calculated act” and an “egregious violation of the rule of law”.So how do we explain the acquittals?Generally the verdict is being seen as another indictment of India’s sluggish and chaotic criminal justice system. Many fear it has been damaged beyond repair by decades of brazen political interference, underfunding and weak capacity.But more specifically the verdict has thrown into sharp relief the increasing marginalisation of India’s 200 million Muslims.Under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government, the community has been pushed into a corner and feels more humiliated than at any time in the history of pluralist, secular India, hailed as the world’s largest democracy since independence in 1947.

Chanting slogans for justice and safe road, students took to the streets in Bangladesh capital Dhaka and continued daylong demonstration for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

A section of Dhaka University students on Wednesday said that they will boycott all classes and examinations and take position at Shahbagh on Thursday if demands of the protesting students are not met by Wednesday night.

They also urged all students across the country to boycott classes tomorrow if the movement continues at a press briefing held at Shahbagh intersection.

The protesting students blockaded different roads in the capital demanding safe road and maximum punishment of the bus driver who killed Bangladesh University of Professionals student Abrar Ahmed on Tuesday.

Hundreds of students from BUP, North South University, Independent University, Bangladesh, University of Information Technology and Sciences, American International University-Bangladesh and Siddheswari Degree College occupied the street on Pragati Sarani in front of Jamuna Future Park at Bashundhara at around 9:30am, halting traffic on the busy road.

Students of Dhaka City College, Dhanmondi Government Boys High School, Home Economics College, Daffodil International University and other educational institutions also joined the movement and took position at Science Lab intersection.

A few hundred DU students took position at the intersection at 11:00am by expressing solidarity with the students of BUP.

Students of different city schools also joined them at Shahbagh.

Students of Jagannath University also joined the movement and chanted different slogans at the university and adjacent areas’ roads.

Students took position at Rampura, Badda, Uttara areas.

The students were seen to pass the ambulances or vehicles carrying patients at Shahbagh intersection.

They were also seen to check documents of vehicles and drivers.

At 3:30pm DU students briefed to the journalists that they were with BUP students and if the demands would not be met by Wednesday night they would boycott all classes and examinations and continue the movement.

Meanwhile, at around 12:30pm on Wednesday, Dhaka North City Corporation mayor Atiqul Islam laid foundation of a footbridge named after Abrar on Pragati Sarani, where the university student was killed.

Later, the DNCC mayor along with Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia, and BUP vice-chancellor Major General Md Emdad assured the agitating students to realise their demands and requested them to leave the street.

The students, however, ignored their request to end the protest and vowed to continue demonstration until their demands were met.

A student delegation went to Nagar Bhaban for discussing with mayor with several demands those include— capital punishment of all the drivers responsible for deaths of pedestrians including that of Abrar, removing former shipping minister Shajahan Khan from power, stopping passenger harassment by transport workers and their salary-based recruitment by public transport owners.  

Mobs have lynched Muslims for eating beef or transporting cows, which are sacred to majority Hindus. Mr Modi’s government has amended laws to fast track non-Muslim refugees from neighbouring countries. It has split the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir and stripped it of its constitutional autonomy.This year, Muslims were singled out and blamed for spreading the novel coronavirus after members of an Islamic group attended a religious gathering in Delhi. Larger Hindu religious gatherings during the pandemic received no such political, public or media opprobrium or scape-goating.That’s not all. Muslim students and activists have been picked up and thrown into prison for allegedly instigating riots over a controversial citizenship law in Delhi last winter, while many Hindu instigators went scot-free. The Babri verdict, many Muslims say, is just a continuation of this humiliation.The sense of alienation is real. Mr Modi’s party makes no bones about its Hindu majoritarian ideology. Popular news networks openly demonise Muslims. Many of India’s once-powerful regional parties, which once stood by the community, appear to have abandoned them. The main opposition Congress is accused by critics of using Muslims cynically to harvest votes without providing much in return. The community itself has few leaders to speak up for it.”Muslims are simply losing faith in the system. They feel cornered and feel the political parties, institutions and the media are failing them. There is a lot of despondency in the community,” says Asim Ali, a research associate at the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank.

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