AYODHYA, Uttar Pradesh — "This is where I was shot. One bullet went straight through my chest and the second was lodged in my hand," said Santosh Dubey, as he walked along Shaheed gali, a quiet street in Ayodhya.
"That is where Ram Kothari and his brother Santosh Kothari were shot dead. Ram Kothari fell first and when his brother ran towards him, they killed him with burst fire," he said, closer to the mouth of the street.
It was 2 November, 1990, and hundreds of karsevaks were marching towards the Babri Masjid for the second time in three days, determined to pray inside the 16th century mosque, where Hindu activists had placed idols of Hindu gods Ram and Sita in 1949.
That day, two months after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani had whipped up communal strife by embarking on his Rath Yatra from Gujarat to Ayodhya, Mulayam Singh Yadav, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, had ordered security personnel to fire on the karsevaks.
At least 16 karsevaks were killed that day in Ayodhya. Two years later, hundreds more karsevaks would demolish the Babri Masjid, and plunge the country into one of its its darkest period of communal violence since 1947.
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On 6 December, 1992, Dubey, armed with a pickaxe, climbed to the very top of the Babri Masjid and hammered away at its middle dome for two hours.
Recalling chants of Har Har Mahadev rising over the city as he ran towards the mosque, Dubey said, "We spilt our blood, ate bullets, went to jail, our families suffered, but the BJP has only lied, lied and lied about building the Ram Temple for 30 years."
"And now, PM Modi ji goes to Safai to attend Mulayam Singh Yadav son's (grandnephew) wedding. They have made fools of us."
When the BJP government swept to power with a significant majority in 2014, hardliners like Dubey felt that the Hindu right finally had the numbers to build a temple over the ruins of the Babri Masjid.
The BJP sweep of the Uttar Pradesh elections, and the selection of Yogi Adityanath at Chief Minister only reinforced this feeling.
Now as the country prepares for elections afresh — and the BJP begins its inevitable talk of building a Ram temple — Dubey, one of the prime accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, and the Shiv Sena chief in Uttar Pradesh, said he was fed up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and half a century of "lies" about the construction of the Ram Temple.
The BJP has only lied, lied and lied about building the Ram Temple for 30 years.
Unfortunately for the BJP, the Supreme Court has postponed hearings on the title suit till January, in effect killing the momentum the ruling party was hoping to generate around the Ram Temple-Babri Masjid dispute ahead of the 2019 general election.
The court's ruling has triggered calls for the Modi government to pass an ordinance to build a Ram Temple from the BJP's leaders and various Hindu outfits.
Since the ruling, the BJP has taken steps, widely regarded as poor substitutes for the Ram Temple, including renaming Faizabad, the home district of Ayodhya city to Sri Ayodhya, and announcing the construction of a Ram statue on the banks of the Saryu river.
While campaigning in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, Adityanath said the Ram Temple would be built in Ayodhya.
Dubey and his ilk are unimpressed.
"We did not vote for Modi so that he could travel around the world like Vasco De Gama and Columbus. We did not vote for him to change the SC/ST Act. We did not vote for him to end triple talaq. We voted for Modi so that he could build the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya," Dubey said.
"If they don't make the temple, the country will never forgive Modi. No party will ever get such a majority again and no one will trust the BJP again," he said.
We did not vote for Modi so that he could travel around the world like Vasco De Gama and Columbus.
The BJP, Dubey claims, will lose the 2019 general election if it fails to deliver the Ram Temple in the next four to five months.
The 55-year-old, a father of two children and a law graduate, said that Shiv Sena has in the past quietly campaigned for the BJP in UP because of the Ram Temple, but not this time.
"The BJP will not win a single seat in UP. The BJP will be uprooted in northern India. India's Hindus will burn BJP's roots with kerosene," he said.
While all of Dubey's predictions may not come to pass, a lack of enthusiasm amongst its base could cost the party seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP will not win a single seat in UP. The BJP will be uprooted in northern India. India's Hindus will burn BJP's roots with kerosene.
Memories of the middle dome
There are many in Ayodhya who wax lyrical about the dream of building the Ram temple, but getting shot at in 1990, barely surviving a fall from the middle dome of the mosque in 1992, and spending time in jail, has made Dubey a local celebrity and authority on the dispute. Dubey claims he is the only accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, who was detained under the National Security Act (NSA).
As he retraces the path that he followed to reach the Babri Masjid on 6 December, 1992, almost every person crossing his path, greets him with a smile and a greeting. His phone, which he always answers with the salutation of Jai Shri Ram, is always ringing, as local reporters call him for quotes and invite him to appear on television.
In front of the Vedanti Ashram building, where Dubey along with the other karsevaks spent the night of 5 December, 1992, he recalled, "It was around eight in the morning, we got ready, ate khichdi, smeared ourselves with saffron, and took up our trishuls and gaitis (pickaxe)."
Dubey recalled the sky was overcast as the karsevaks made their way towards the Babri Masjid in groups of around 50 to 150.
"We hugged each other. We did not know whether we were going to live or die, but we knew that the disputed structure would be demolished," he said.
We did not know whether we were going to live or die, but we knew that the disputed structure would be demolished.
It was around 10:30 am, Dubey recalled, when the karsevaks reached the Babri Masjid. In another 30 minutes, they were running towards the mosque and started climbing its domes.
"There were no mobile phones back then. The chanting of 'Har Har Mahadev' was our signal to run towards the disputed structure. We thought that if we started running then people will also run towards it," he said.
After he had clambered up the middle dome, Dubey recalled that he abandoned his trishul for a gaiti, which was useful for hammering away at the mosque.
It was three hours later, around two in the afternoon, when Dubey said that his hand slipped and he fell from the dome, landing on another man in the crowd below.
Dubey said that "almost all his bones were broken" and he rushed to the hospital in an "almost dead state." The man he fell on died.
It took the karsevaks less than five hours to bring down the mosque that Mir Baaqi, Mughal emperor Babur's general, had built in 1528.
"I have no regrets about what happened. I destroyed the structure that Babur had built. I believe my life to be a success," Dubey said. "Anything that hurts the pride and sentiments of Hindus will not survive for very long in India."
Anything that hurts the pride and sentiments of Hindus, will not survive for very long in India.
6 December, 1992
A few days before the Babri Masjid was demolished, Dubey, who was leading the Shiv Sena in UP at the time, claims to have met Advani in the Hanuman Bagh hall in Ayodhya.
Advani, he said, asked Braham Dutt Divedi, the BJP leader who had taken him for the meeting organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), "whether it can be brought down."
At this point, he recalled, a man named Bhismha Pitama Tripathi, a member of the Shiv Sena who was at meeting, commented that the Babri Masjid was not made out of paper and tools would be needed to demolish it.
Advani, Dubey said, asked him two questions: what will happen and what do you need.
A driver named Lakshman, who, Dubey said, worked for the BJP, arranged for the gaitis which the karsevaks used to destroy the temple.
"I remember that he brought the gaitis in a tempo," Dubey recalled. "There was not a single gaiti left in the bazaars of Faizabad. The lohaars made the trishuls in 24 hours. I don't know where the talwaars came from."
There was not a single gaiti left in the bazaars of Faizabad.
Dubey and other karsevaks spoke of the meeting with Advani to the media in 2004, when Advani was completing his tenure as deputy prime minister, but, as the Shiv Sena leader put it, did "nothing" to further construction of the Ram Temple.
On the morning of 6 December, 1992, while karsevaks were charging towards the mosque, BJP leaders including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, and Vinay Katiyar, were giving speeches from a manch located 200 meters away.
These BJP leaders, Dubey believes, had started playing a "political game" on that very day by urging the karsevaks to protect Ram, but steering clear of calling for the destruction of the Babri Masjid in their speeches. While he was on stage, the Shiv Sena leader said that Advani was urging the karsevaks to not destroy the mosque.
"This is what I don't understand about his character. In a closed room, Advani ji is saying something else, but on a public platform, Advani ji is saying something else," he said. "These are the two faces of the BJP, they only do politics."
Advani ji is saying something else, but on a public platform, Advani ji is saying something else.
Last year, a former BJP lawmaker Ram Vilas Vedanti said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had it wrong, and it was him, not Advani, who had encouraged the karsevaks to destroy the mosque.
"When the mosque was being razed, Ashok Singhal, Mahant Avaidyanath and I exhorted the karsevaks to bring the structure down," he told the media. "While we were inciting the mob, Joshi, Advani and Vijayraje Scindia were trying to stop the karsevaks."
As he was climbing to the middle dome of the mosque, Dubey recalled Vijaya Raje Scindia of the Gwalior royal family, whom he called Rajmata Scindia, was asking karsevaks not to destroy the mosque, but he did not pay attention to her.
"Even then we did not trust the BJP leaders, we knew they would back out. Even then we knew the RSS people would give speeches and run away," he said. "But we were there to free Lord Ram."
Even then we did not trust the BJP leaders, we knew they would back out.
Modi versus Vajpayee and Advani
As he spoke of the BJP, Dubey explained why he feels more wronged by Modi than former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani.
"Vajpayee can be forgiven because he repeatedly said this is not the government of the BJP, it is the government of 14 parties and we are majboor. Advani was weak, but he was also the man who started the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and raised Hindu consciousness," Dubey said.
"But Narendra Modi was given a full majority government by the people, but he has deceived the nation. In almost five years, he has never spoken of the Ram Temple. He has never even visited Ayodhya," he said. "When the time comes, he will pay the biggest price for this betrayal."
In almost five years, he has never spoken of the Ram Temple. He has never even visited Ayodhya.
The BJP's spree of changing names of cities in UP, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's recent announcement of building a statute of Ram on the banks of the Saryu river, Dubey believes, is only adding insult to injury.
"People are laughing at the BJP. They want to make a Ram Statue under the open sky so that birds are going to be pooping on our God," he said. "If they want to build a Ram statute then build it on the Ram Janmabhoomi under a chatri."
On renaming Allahabad to Prayagraj and Faizabad to Sri Ayodhya, Dubey said, "If they call themselves Surendra instead of Narendra, and Bhogi instead of Yogi, what difference does it make? Changing names of places is a joke."
With each passing election, Dubey said, the public is getting increasingly wary of the BJP exploiting sentiments around the Ram Temple for political gain.
"You have seen a madari and his damroo. Now that the election is coming, the BJP is the madari with the damroo, doing Ram Ram Ram Ram," he said. "The BJP is playing with religion. The Ram Temple is no joke."
If they call themselves Surendra instead of Narendra, and Bhogi instead of Yogi, what difference does it make?
Will vote for Congress if necessary
Even though Dubey is from Shiv Sena, he has religiously campaigned for the BJP in every election.
Unless the BJP takes decisive action to construct the Ram Temple in the next three months, Dubey says that he will neither campaign nor vote for the BJP.
Pointing to the four or five people waiting to meet him, Dubey said that all of them had voted for the BJP in 2019. Turning to them, he asked, "Will anyone vote for the BJP, this time around?" They said, "No."
"The public does not care if the value of the rupee is at an all-time low or if government cannot control rising prices. Increase the petrol prices to Rs. 100 if you have to. But if you don't construct the Ram Temple, there is no BJP," he said.
The BJP government cannot hide behind the Supreme Court, Dubey said, citing how the Congress Party, in 1985, ignored its ruling in the Shah Bano case, and brought in a legislation that made Muslim women ineligible for maintenance after the period of iddat following divorce.
Earlier this year, the Modi government amended the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which in effect nullified the Supreme Court's ruling barring the immediate arrest of a person following the lodging of a FIR.
"Did the Hindus vote for Modi or did the Hindus work for the Supreme Court? Supreme Court cannot rule on the faith of the people," Dubey said.
Did the Hindus vote for Modi or did the Hindus work for the Supreme Court?
Dubey said that he had no intention on pressing the "None of the above option" (NOTA) in the coming election. The Shiv Sena leader added that he would vote for the Congress Party if necessary, and he would rather see Rahul Gandhi than Modi as prime minister.
"If this country can accept Sitaram Kesri, Indra Kumar Gujral, Chaudhari Charan Singh, Raj Narain, Mayawati, then it can accept Rahul Gandhi," he said. "Modi ji has made a joke of the Ram Temple. If Rahul Gandhi can beat Modi then I will vote for Rahul Gandhi. I can bear anyone except the BJP and Modi."
Modi ji has made a joke of the Ram Temple. If Rahul Gandhi can beat Modi then I will vote for Rahul Gandhi.
As Dubey reiterated that he is serious about voting with the sole objective of defeating the BJP, Dubey recalled that it was former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who unlocked the doors of the Babri Masjid in 1986.
In 1993, India Todayreported recently, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government even passed an ordinance for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, only a month after the Babri Masjid had been demolished.
Dubey even claims that former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who led the Congress government in 1992, knew of the plot to demolish the mosque. "The PM also wanted the demolition of the mosque. That is the truth," he said. It is a claim that he and other leaders who were at the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement have previously made in 2014.
Building the Ram Temple with our hands
Now, after 25 years waiting for the Ram Temple, Dubey is convinced the BJP will never construct it.
For over two-and-a-half years, Dubey has been working towards building the "Dharam Sena," an organization he hopes will build the Ram Temple.
Dubey estimates the "Dharam Sena" presently has 50,000 members, and he hopes to grow it by five lakhs in the coming years.
The Shiv Sena leader, who is building his organization independently of the Shiv Sena, imagines the next generation of karsevaks building the Ram Temple with their own hands if necessary.
"A revolution is coming. What happened on December 1992 will happen again. The day that lakhs of karsevaks gather in Ayodhya, no one will be able to stop them," he said. "There are things that go with the talwaar, and there are things that have to be raised with the talwaar."
There are things that go with the talwaar, and there are things that have to be raised with the talwaar.
To this end, Dubey says, the Dharam Sena will gather in Ayodhya on 6 December, the 26th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.
In Dubey's mind, it will be the so-called upper caste Hindus who will forge the "revolution" to build the Ram Temple.
"Only Brahmins can do this work. This is the work of brave men, brave castes, to bleed, to die for the religion, to die for the nation," he said.
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