On Dec 6, 1992 it was yet another normal day in a small town called Burhanpur, in the southern Madhya-Pradesh. It was often known as Deccan Darvaza, the gateway to Deccan plateau for its militarily important geo-political location during the Mughal period. In those days talking about Mughals was a matter of pride and their rich cultural heritage was valued unlike today. I was about to leave for my school in the morning when my mother was concerned about some radio news she had heard in the morning, in the middle of her chores. My father assured her that nothing will happen and I should be allowed to go to school just like any other day. So I left for my bus stop where my friend Khadija would meet me everyday. Less than half a mile away from her home this was perfect place to wait for our school bus. Many people in the vicinity knew us and yet they would ignore our little playful activities like playing with piglets close to the gutter. Yes this was the time when even Khadija would find piglets cute, without being apprehended for finding this species particularly nice looking. And till very recently it had not occurred to me that she was a Muslim and myself a Hindu, until of course we had witnessed a huge procession of saffron headband people. These men were going from house to house asking for donation for a temple to be built in Ayodhya. Both of us had never heard of Ayodhya and did not quite understand what did it mean when people said janmbhoomi. These men had squarely left all the Muslim houses while asking for donations.
For the first time I had seen that women in my family (my grandmother and mother) went against my father’s wishes to donate some money to these people. For us this was all fun as we really did not understand where would this lead to and what was going to happen with this money will change forever the way we would grow up and come of age in this country.
So on that fateful morning when we were at our spot waiting for our school bus to arrive, we saw few frenzied activities and a few more cops outside the police station near our bus stop. We were oblivious to what people were listening on their radios and asking the local cable guy to set up his connection. In those days cable TV was just arriving and we had to request this fellow many times during the day to start the network at his end.
We reached our school only to witness a colossal chaos in less than three hours into the day. Our teachers were in frenzy, we were being packed into the buses we did not board everyday and then a bunch of us saw a crowd with swords and lathis running towards our school bus in the middle of the road. They were chasing a guy and before any of us could realize they chopped of his hands in front of us!
That was the day I stopped trusting people on the road. For me the road became a place where one had to protect oneself from the unforeseen circumstances like these. There was no end to the stories after that, we even saw a BSF cavalcade march in our small sleepy town and after a few days as life got back to normal, well life has this uncanny need to get back to normal, we even played cricket with BSF jawans. We would carry cups of tea for them from our homes and listen to their stories of different places they had been to and also got to know where Ayodhya exactly was! It was somewhere near Lucknow, a city we knew through the doordarshan telecast of the films like Mere Mehboob.
What we lost forever and we did not even realize for many years to come, was a reality, a reality of harmony, love and co-existence. Even partition could not separate Eid and Holi celebrations in our town, but Babri demolition did it.
And I hold one man accountable for this loss which my generation grew-up with- Lal Krishna Advani.
Rutuja Deshmukh Wakankar is a former journalist with Indian Express. She has taught Cinema Studies at Allahabad University. She is also a qualified Advanced Open Water SCUBA Diver. And is currently pursuing Masters in South Asian Area Studies at SOAS London.