In popular imagination in the 21st century, violence at Ayodhya began primarily in the 1980s when Lal Krishna Advani began his Rath Yatra. However, that’s not entirely true. Communal violence in the region has broken out sporadically over the course of centuries. In the earlier article, we have documented how it was a priority for the Maratha Empire to reclaim Hindu Holy Sites. In this article, we shall focus on an incidence of communal violence that occurred in the region in 1855 at Hanumangarhi.
It is also important to remember here that as early as in 1822, an official at the Faizabad Law Court, Hafizullah, said that the “mosque founded by Babar is situated at the birthplace of Ram”. It also mentions that the Masjid is built next to Sita ki Rasoi. Thirty-three years later, however, the violence did not involve Ram but his devoted follower Hanuman over the Temple at Hanumangarhi which is a short distance away from Ram Janmabhoomi.
1855: British resident wrote to Nawab of Awadh to stop the attack on Temple at Hanumangarhi
In 1855, a British Resident wrote a letter to the Nawab of Awadh requesting him to stop an attack on the Temple at Hanumangarhi. He mentions in the letter that a Sunni leader Gulam Hussain had gathered force and intended to attack the Temple. The Sunnis claimed that there was a Mosque inside the Hanuman Temple, therefore, they wanted to take control of it. Despite the British Resident’s request for reinforcements, the Nawab did nothing and a small fight occurred between the two communities.
The Siege of July 1855: When Gulam Hussain attacked Hanuman Temple (Hanumangarhi) and Hindus fought back
A much greater fight occurred later in July of the same year. Gulam Hussain and his troops attacked the Hanuman Temple which led to a defiant counterattack by Hindus in the region. Seventy Muslims lost their lives in the skirmish. Following the skirmish, the British Resident secured two bonds from the Bairagis to whom the Temple belonged which he then took to the Nawab.
The first said that the Bairagis bore no enmity toward the Muslim community and the violence would not affect the manner in which they conducted themselves with members of the other community. The second said that they were open to an independent inquiry on the occurrence of a Masjid inside Hanumangarhi and if it was found to be true, they would be willing to surrender the entire premise without any fight. As evidence of their stated position, the Bairagis produced documents which showed that the land was given to them by the ancestors of the Nawab and if there were indeed a Mosque at the site, they would have never been given the plot.
The Nawab, in an attempt to pacify the Jihadist crowd, suggested a compromise that a Mosque be built adjacent to the Hanuman Temple. However, the compromise was unpalatable to the Bairagis. That led to an independent inquiry which proved the Hindu position that there never had been a Mosque at the site. The Jihadists, of course, couldn’t make peace with it and under a new leader, Amir Ali, they planned to attack the Temple again. However, before the Jihadists could succeed, the British intervened and killed him.
August 1855: Nawab writes to British resident about the long battle between Hindus and Muslims for Ram Janmabhoomi
In August, the same year, the Nawab sent a letter to the British Resident, Major James Outram, with five documents attached that confirmed the long drawn out battle between Hindus and Muslims over Ram Janmabhoomi. It stated that a similar fight had erupted between the two communities during the reign of the first Nawab of Awadh (1722-1739), Saadat Khan, over the Masjid built “by one of the former sovereigns of Delhi” but the Hindus had later declared that they had no intention of “meddling with the mosque”. The Hindu position here is understandable as they were still being ruled by a Muslim ruler.
The Nawab went on to say that “the tenor of all these papers caste (sic) all the blame on the Hindoos and details their atrocities”. He further said, “A fence which was erected in the present king’s reign to separate the Masjid from the Hindu place of worship has been torn down.” He also says that “the Hindus sacrificed a pig in the Masjid and blew their shells” on the day of burial of Muslims. They also supposedly destroyed the tomb of Khuja Hutee, who was apparently a martyr, for what is uncertain. The Nawab complained that although the Bairagis were not too numerous, they were assisted by the followers of Raja Man Singh and Raja Kishan Dutt and other zamindars. The Resident in his reply stated clearly that the documents submitted were “obviously untrue” in placing the entire blame on Hindus.
December 1855: ‘How does it matter if shrines were destroyed and their pollution adorned with mosques’, asked the Nawab
Expressing the sentiments of his own community, the Nawab told the British Resident later in December, “What matters if a dozen of their shrines were destroyed and their pollution adorned with mosques? But the destruction of a mosque was an offence of the deepest hue; from all times it had been punished by mutilation, nay by death.”
The tension between Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya did not just start with Babri demolition
Thus, the battle over Hanumangarhi and the subsequent interaction between the British Resident and the Nawab destroys a very carefully crafted narrative of the Leftist historians of Independent India. It is often said that it was the British who fueled divisions between Hindus and Muslims and until they worked their evil ways, Hindus and Muslims had largely been living in peace.
In 1855, we see that it was the British which prevented Jihadists from destroying the Hanuman Temple at Hanumangarhi and eventually killed the one who was leading the attack. Furthermore, see that contrary to the picture of Islamic barbarian rulers that is painted today, they always sided with their own community and supported them even when their claims were based on complete falsities.
There was a good reason why the British attempted to maintain a semblance of law and order between the two communities and it had nothing to do with any goodwill towards Hindus. They were a colonial power and a colonial power cannot hope to utilize a country’s resources to the fullest if its people are always fighting each other. Maintaining law and order was necessary to ensure that their presence in India benefited them. A country in chaos is not suitable for business.
The developments at Hanumangarhi in 1855 also provides some clue as to why some regions of the country were welcoming of British rule. For instance, in Bengal, when the British eventually gained power, the Hindus saw that as bad as the British were, they were significantly better than the Islamic barbarians who ruled before them. Therefore, if these two were the only options at the table, it doesn’t come across as a surprise that the Hindus of Bengal would gladly choose the British.
Leftist distortion of History
Thus, the battle at Hanumangarhi and the subsequent interactions show that not only has violence at Ayodhya been happening for centuries, Leftist historians have also engaged in a complete inversion of reality when it comes to the relationship between Hindus, Muslims and the British. The British did not divide the two communities, they were always divided, and the British only tried to manage the enmity between Hindus and Muslims effectively so that their larger objective of leeching India was not hindered.
Therefore, the British effectively maintained a policy of ‘status-quo’ on Hindu-Muslim disputes and so long as they ruled India, Ram Janmabhoomi could not be reclaimed. Undoubtedly, if the British acquiesced to the demand of Hindus to hand over Ram Janmabhoomi to them, the possibility of tactical alliances with Muslim rulers would have been greatly hindered. The British might have navigated through the mess despite that but why should they risk their own interests on an issue in which they had no skin in the game?
Three forces vying for Bharata
The British ruled by posing as equidistant from the religious violence between both communities. It was crucial for them to maintain that mask so as to seen as not unfairly favouring any community and maintain an air of neutrality so that they could continue with their colonial designs. Thus, as long as they ruled, Ram Janmabhoomi could not be reclaimed.
Another important aspect that is often missed is that effectively there were three different types of forces battling for rule over Bharata. The first aspired for Hindavi Swarajya, the second was the Islamic barbarians and the third was the British. The partition of India is a testament to this fact where two forces gained a country each for themselves while the third (the British) were evicted from India. Of course, one of the forces decided to shed its Hindu identity and call itself ‘Secular’ but it does not take away from the fact that this force was essentially Hindu.
Sources: Historian Dr Meenakshi Jain’s talk at Srijan Foundation, Dr Meenakshi Jain’s book: Rama and Ayodhya