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The brutal massacre of Karsevaks in 1990: On the day of the Bhoomi Pujan, let us remember who laid down their lives for it

The firing on unarmed karsevaks in the year 1990 was a far more heinous crime than the Jallianwala incident, a report by Jansatta had then said. There was never an exact count of how many unarmed Karsevaks had lost their lives. The bodies were either cremated at unknown sites or thrown in the Sarayu.

The day for which millions of Hindu devotees have been waiting with bated breath is finally here. Ayodhya’s Bhavya Ram Mandir’s construction will now speed up as the Bhoomi Pujan has been successfully completed today. It is being estimated that the Ram Mandir construction would approximately be completed in three and a half years. But as we celebrate this auspicious day today, one should also reminisce those thousands of Hindu devotees and Karsevaks whose extreme sacrifices laid the foundation for the Hindu reclamation of the Janmabhoomi of Bhagwan Ram.

The despicable act of police brutality that was inflicted on Hindus in November 1990

2nd November 1990, IG SMP Sinha said to his subordinates: There is a clear instruction from Lucknow that the crowd will not sit on the streets at any cost.

Who was sitting on the Lucknow’s chair then? Why was he giving such orders? Who was wanting to come across as the ‘Messiah’ of Muslims? Before these questions could be answered, we should know what had exactly happened in Ayodhya on 2nd November 1990.

2nd November, 1990, Hindu massacre in Ayodhya

It was 9 am on the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima when Hindu saints and thousands of Karsevaks, comprising also of women and elderly people, resumed their march towards the Ram Janmabhoomi site where the disputed structure then stood. The security forces, who were instructed to stop the Hindus from reaching the site, lined up on the road to block the way.

Whenever the security personnel tried to impede the Hindu devotees, they would sit there and start chanting the name of Lord Ram and reciting Bhajans (religious songs). They touched the feet of the security personnel, deployed to prevent them from marching ahead. Each time they did this the security personnel would move back and the Karsevaks would move forward. Though unarmed, the Karsevaks remained undeterred.

This kept happening in a loop until the IG passed orders and the police personnel sprung to action. Tear gas shells were fired, lathis were rained at the Karsevaks, but the resolute Ram Bhakts neither counter-attacked nor did they agitate or falter. Suddenly the security personnel started responding by opening fire. Many Hindu devotees were targeted and gunned down. It’s believed that the security personnel hunted and targeted Hindus in every lane and bylane leading to the Ram Janmabhoomi and within no time the streets converted into a war zone.

On 3rd November 1990, a report published by Hindi daily Jansatta wrote:

A Karsevak of Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, whose name was not known, fell as soon as he was shot by the security personnel. As he fell, he wrote “Sitaram” on the road with his blood. It remains a mystery whether the Karsevak had written his own name or was it his devotion and adherence towards Lord Ram which made him write “Sitaram” in his own blood. The report had mentioned that even after the Karsevak fell to the ground, the CRPF personnel had shot seven bullets into his skull.

The report published by Jansatta on November 3, 1990.
An extract from the e-book “Ayodhya ka Chashmadeed”

More details which had emerged regarding the November 2 carnage:

  • The security personnel neither offered help to the injured nor allowed anyone else to help them.
  • The police did not have any prior written order for firing. In fact, the district magistrate had signed the order after the police had carried out the firing.
  • No Karsevak was shot in the leg. All of them were shot in the head and chest. Which means that the security personnel had fired with an intention to kill and not just injure.
  • The Tulsi crossing was converted into a battlefield with the streets soaked in the Karsevak’s blood. Kothari brothers were dragged out of the Digambar Akhara and shot at.
  • Ramachal Gupta, a 26-year-old Karsevak, was attacked by the police personnel from behind, while he led a group of two dozen devotees towards the Ram Janmabhoomi.
  • Security forces entered the Digambar Akhada and started indiscriminately firing at the Sadhus present there.
  • The priest of a Hindu temple situated in front of the police station was shot at.
  • A Sadhu, who was standing on the rooftop and throwing buckets of water to help the tear-gassed people was also shot at.
  • After the firing, the bodies of the devotees lying on the streets were filled in sacks and were disposed off.

It was in this carnage that the heroic Kothari brothers lost their lives

On November 2, 1990, a large group of Karsevaks, including the Kothari brothers, started to gather in front of Hunumangarhi, a stone’s throw away from the disputed structure that was eventually demolished later. The group led by Bajrang Dal’s Vinay Katiyar started moving ahead but were stopped by police.

All of them sat on the road in protest and started singing ‘bhajans’ (religious songs) when suddenly, the security personnel at the behest of the then CM Mulayam Singh, started firing at the crowd and chased Karsevaks across the area. Many people died from head wounds. There was a stampede at the Saryu Bridge, which killed a number of people. According to eye-witnesses, the Kothari brothers mounted a saffron flag atop the Babri Masjid, but however, fell prey to the brutality meted out at the Karsevaks.

How many karsevaks actually died in the November 1990 carnage?

The incident which occurred in Ayodhya, almost 30 years back, left an ineradicable mark in the history of India. After the brutal massacre, different media houses had come up with different numbers of those killed on November 2, 1990. In a report published the next day by Jansatta, the number of dead karsevaks was stated to be 40. It had also stated that 60 others were badly wounded in the incident while it could not give the exact number of people who escaped with minor injuries. Meanwhile, a journalist who was on the spot during the incident, reported the death toll to be 45.

The Hindi daily Dainik Jagran had said that 100 people had died in the police firing, while Daily Aaj said this number was 400. Though the official report on the incident concluded that 16 people had been killed in the firing, however, the fact remained that the number was potentially far higher.

Interestingly, the administration had not provided any data on its own immediately after the incident, but the media data was not denied. Even the then Faizabad Commissioner, Madhukar Gupta could not tell how many rounds were fired until hours after the firing. He did not even have the data of the dead and the injured.

Jansatta had written clearly in its report: “By firing on unarmed Karsevaks, the administration has committed a far more heinous crime than the Jallianwalabag incident.”

What delibrated ‘Mulla’ Mulayam to take such a whimsical stance

Most of them think that the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992, altered the communal landscape of India. But there is a background to this incident which shaped the events which led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

These series of events include LK Advani leading a nationwide Rathyatra, to persuade people to join in the construction of Ram temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi, where the disputed structure stood.

The VP Singh-led government then was on shaky ground at the Centre due to infighting in the ruling Janata Dal. In Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav of the same party was the chief minister. The Janata Dal was vehemently against the Ayodhya campaign by the RSS, the BJP and the VHP.

“Let them try and enter Ayodhya. We will teach them the meaning of law. No masjid will be broken.” Mulayam Singh Yadav, in an attempt to please the Muslim vote bank, had declared in October 1990, opposing the rath yatra of LK Advani.

LK Advani could not enter Ayodhya as he was arrested in Bihar by the Lalu Prasad government of the Janata Dal. Advani’s arrest by Lalu Prasad proved to be a game-changer. Lalu overnight became a hero in the eyes of the Muslims. Mulayam Singh, miffed by this strategy laid by Lalu Prasad at the behest of VP Singh at the centre thought of doing something which could immediately pose him as the hero in front of the Muslim vote bank. Mulayam Singh probably then decided that killing unarmed Karsevaks will project a heroic image of him for the Muslims.

On the morning of October 30, the police had barricaded about 1.5 km-long pathway to the disputed structure. Ayodhya was in an unprecedented security cordon. Curfew had been imposed. Yet, sadhus and Karsevaks marched towards the structure.

By noon, police received orders from then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to open fire at the karsevaks. The firing led to chaos and stampede. Police chased down the karsevaks in the streets of Ayodhya.

Another round of clash erupted on November 2, when the Karsevaks came back and resumed their march towards the Ram Janmabhoomi site.

It was reported then that the police had disposed of many dead bodies, either by cremating them at unknown places or by dumping them into the Saryu River in sacks. The news of the shootings was mostly suppressed from the Indian media then, however, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was given the sobriquet ‘Mulla’ Mulayam Singh for his pro-Muslim stance during the incident.

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