New Login   

Accounts Of A National Trauma

Sukumar Muraleedharan

By A.G. Noorani
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 506, Rs. 995.00


Public memory is short. A regime of public accountability requires safe-guards against the brevity of memory. For a nation such as India, where the governmental presence is looming and large, disclosure norms are of recent vintage and their functioning leaves much to be desired. Official records are quirkly maintained and declassification rules neither transparent nor consistently implemented. Events of consequence are mostly fixed in public memory through sporadic media reports and increasingly ritualistic anniversary observances. A collateral benefit of the partial and hesitant emergence of a critical public discourse in India, particularly in the years since the 1980s, has been the active intervention of individuals and civil society groups in seeking to establish public archives that preserve memories of both triumph and trauma. Drawn from diverse sources, these archives seek to eliminate the clutter and distil out the elements essential to building a coherent narrative that future generations could draw on. It is a process often impeded by the equations of political power thrown up by election cycles, as with the 1984 carnage on the streets of the national capital and the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. But certain individuals have with their diligence and commitment conquered these impediments. A.G. Noorani, lawyer and media commentator with a prolific and diverse output, belongs within this category. Destruction of the Babri Masjid: A National Dishonour comes as part of a continuum that includes his ironically titled two-volume work, The Babri Masjid Question: ‘A Matter of National Honour’, published in 2003. Noorani  here brings the narrative up-to-date, assembling between the covers diverse accounts of all significant events in the subsequent career of a national trauma. The volume is dedicated to India’s first Prime Minister and its epigraph reproduces Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous assessment that majority communalism is a greater danger than its minority variant, since it often succeeded in donning the garbs of nationalism. Nehru’s insistence in correspondence with Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel and the U.P. Chief Minister Gobind Ballabh Pant to defuse the Babri Masjid crisis when it emerged as a potential threat in 1949 is well documented in the 2003 volumes. The act of trespass by which the idol of a mythological divine was introduced into the premises of a mosque was one among many acts of Hindutva revanchism in the fraught aftermath of India’s Partition. It was one among many abuses that remained uncorrected and yet the only one that—...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.