18 December 2017 01:15 AM

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QURBAN ALI | 6 DECEMBER, 2017

Ayodhya, Dec 6 1992: Near Encounter With Death As Babri Masjid Was Being Demolished

Ayodhya, Dec 6 1992: Near Encounter With Death As Babri Masjid Was Being Demolished


NEW DELHI: Revisiting decisive moments of your life is always a cathartic experience. I can never say the same about the day of 6th December 1992, which brings back a series of haunting memories--that I would rather not revisit.

However, when some of my journalist friends asked me to write down my memories of that tragic day and asked me how I felt as a journalist at that time, I decided to share the story as I had witnessed it 25 years ago.

I was working for the Hindi 'Sunday Observer' at that time and was also a stringer for the BBC. BBC Hindi and Urdu services often had telephonic interviews with me those days and that were called 'Phono' or 'two ways'.

On the 5th of December, I reached Ayodhya and checked-in at the journalists' favourite accommodation, Hotel Shan-e-Awadh. Anticipation and excitement ran high in the hotel lobby that evening.

The Sangh Parivar specially one of its wing, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had announced "Kar Sewa" that day. It was quite evident that they were on their way to demolish the disputed mosque. After all, they had been feverishly practicing and rehearsing the demolition for days. The Kar Sewaks came prepared and equipped with all the logistics to demolish the enduring 460 year-old structure of Mughal era.

On the morning of December 6, Ayodhya was caught up in a buzz. Journalists positioned themselves on an elevated platform near the Babri Masjid. At exactly 10am, Kar Sewaks started gathering near the mosque and made their way towards the barbed wiring of the security cordon. Within minutes, there was commotion, the storming into the mosque had begun.

The Kar sewaks could now be seen climbing the walls and holding fort on top of the tombs. At that time, BBCs then South Asia Chief Mark Tully decided to move to Faizabad so he could file the news of the storming of Babri Masjid. At that time there were no mobile phones and the only place to connect to the BBC headquarter in London was through central telegraph office (CTO) Faizabad.

Tully's colleague Gillian Wright, Ramdutt Tripathi, a Lucknow-based journalist and I reached Faizabad around noon where Mark filed his first report.

By 1pm we were on our way back to Ayodhya where the demolition of Babri Masjid was on full swing, but were stopped by the crowd at the outskirts of the city. We went back to Faizabad and decided to follow the para military forces i.e RAF & CRPF when they moved to Ayodhya. However the forces were stopped as well at a railway crossing between the two towns.

When all our efforts to reach Ayodhya were exhausted, a journalist friend Vinod Shukla, then resident editor of Dainik Jagran, suggested a way out. He told us of a way through the city cantonment area and offered us a lift in his personal NE 118 car along with his wife and his local correspondent Saral Gyapte.

In half an hour, we managed to reach the Babri Masjid to see all three domes of the mosque demolished. As soon as we got down from our car, a group of violent Kar Sewaks armed with Trident lathis charged at us. Most of them were local residents and were angry to see Mark Tully with us. They knew he was a journalist working with BBC and were unhappy with his reportage on Ayodhya.

As the mob gathered to beat us, perhaps even kill us, one of the agitated Kar Sewak suggested that killing us would perhaps disturb the ongoing demolition. He said that it would be better if they locked us for the time being and killed us later.

The five of us were locked in a room in a nearby building. For the next two hours, we were in a state of shock, waiting to be killed when demolition was over.

Saral Gyapte managed to free himself and rushed to the Mahant of Bada Sthan or Badi Haveli, a respectable figure in Ayodhya. When he came to know that the editor of Jagran along with some other journalists were being held hostage, he immediately came to our rescue and on his assurance and a sort of guarantee we were freed at around 7pm.

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