Self-aggrandizement is something which I loathe. But this, I guess is that kind of day and this is the story which needs to be told.
Sometime in 1989 when I came to know, that Hindus are struggling to built Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, I was shocked. I got associated with Ram Janmabhoomi, when L K Advani went on Rath Yatra in 1990. Somehow that year, Secular Socialists were able to stop him. But the movement only got stronger. RSS/VHP/BJP kept the pressure on. It was decided, that thousands of Karsevaks will agitate in Ayodhya in Dec 1992.
And on the evening of 25th Nov 1992, along with many friends, I was on Mahanadi Express. As the train moved towards Bhopal, more and more Karsevaks were added. In a while, it was packed to the roof. If my memory is not failing me, the train went smoothly till Bina. From there it was sent back promptly to Vidisha. After a while it rolled again, only to be sent back immediately, not sure to which station this time.
By now more than 12 hours of the journey was gone. Not an inch to move. Dabba given by Mom was over long back. Now it had become impossible to bear inside the train. People started getting out. Reluctantly the leaders amongst us, allowed everybody to get down. After a while, it was realised that the train won’t be allowed in UP.
From there, we were put on buses and taken to the picturesque lovely temple town of Chitrakoot. Where I met Uma Bharati for the first time.
We were at Chitrakoot for 3 days. It was 5 days since spoken to parents. Most of my friends in their twenties started getting jittery. Travel back towards South was available. Lot of them chose to go back. I was not sure. My childhood friend (Can’t name him) said “Wapas Nahi Jayenge.” And so we stayed.
Next 7 days were one of the most physically trying times of my life. We were taken to a small city called Banda in UP. Where we slept on open ground. (Imagine UP chill in Dec). Only to be put in detention in a school for the next 2 days by UP police. Somehow escaped with a small group. And on the banks of Ganga stayed in a temple for one day. Transport towards the South was still available and free. From there Allahabad, which on other shore was visible. Our leader asked us “Kashi ka Allahabad Kaise ho Gaya?” Valid question.
Next day morning 5.30 march towards Ram Janmabhoomi began. We walked, through the villages and green open grounds and farms. We walked early morning and when the sun was shining brightly. And when it was tilting. Villagers made sure drinking water, tea, jaggery and food is available at all times. We stopped in the evening. My legs were aching is an understatement. I had lost feelings of limbs being there. Thankfully again tea and jaggery were ready. After a little while, dinner was served. Sumptuous village food.
Took our dinner early, and slept like toddlers at 8 pm. Up again at 4.30. Started walking at 5.30. Same routine for the next 2 days. Early evening 3rd day I lost my patience. And blasted our leader, “How much longer we have to go?”. He promised, today we are going to be there. And, truly, sometime after sunset as we were walking, a local who was accompanying us showed a temple top and said “Dekho Ayodhya…”
Folks, words have limits. I can not describe my feelings! I thought Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary must have the same kind of feeling when for the first time they made it to the top of Kanchenjunga.
We were taken to a huge temple. Joy got multiplied to find an RSS friend from my locality already there. We were fed again and beds were made available. This was all good, it was close to 15 days since had spoken to parents and sister. And now what? Where do we go from here? Again one RSS leader told us, “Dhiraj rakho. Sleep now. Jai Shree Ram”.
Next morning we were woken and told today’s the day. As we got ready and started walking with hundreds of volunteers, news came in that the Mosque has been taken down. Police were overrun and administration has collapsed. Stay where you are. We have distributed sweets and we celebrated. Mission accomplished! The town was reverberating with “Jai Shri Ram” and “Mandir Wahi Banayenge”! It was unbelievable.
We celebrated like crazy. And wanted to visit the site. But, we were told, by our leader who was with me right from the start till here, we should stay where we are. There is nothing to be done now. And the danger of a stampede is very high. Was there through the morning. At around 10 am took a train to Lucknow. Reached at 2.05 PM. A train was getting ready to move at 2.10. I asked a Coolie, “Kaha Jayegi?” (Where to). He replied “Madras”. I thought this must be going through Nagpur. I saw a man sitting inside. Went to him, and asked “Nagpur jyegi kya”. Came back the reply in Marathi “Aat madhe ye” (Come inside). I broke down in tears!
Sometime next day in the afternoon, reached home.