A Tale of Two Riots

THE STORMING OF THE US CAPITOL BEARS AN EERIE RESEMBLANCE TO THE DEMOLITION OF BABRI MASJID.

21st January, 2021

Written by Nathan Fulgado

Artwork by Kranti Gagdekar Chhara

Screenshot 2021-01-21 181447.jpg

On 6th January 2021, a horde of right-wing, Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol Building, hoping to stop the formalization of Joe Biden’s Presidential victory. The inspiration for these riots came from Donald Trump himself. Trump is quoted saying, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” A hoard of white supremacists marched to the Capitol Building, and this was in no way a peaceful protest.

On 6th December 1992, a horde of Hindu activists, with allegiances to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its allied organisations stormed and destroyed the Babri Masjid. The significance of this event has resulted in communal violence not just in the 90s, but left fault lines between Hindus and Muslims for decades to come. The thought of an Islamic place of worship built on the hallowed birthplace of Lord Ram was simply intolerable to this massive horde of angry kar sevaks.

These two events might be separated by twenty-one years, but the principles of Ayodhya apply in Washington DC. The L.K Advani and Donald Trump-led movements, two decades apart, are eerily similar to each other. 

Advani was heard saying the following: “Saugandh Ram ki Khat-e hain; Hum Mandir Wahin Banayegein (We take a vow in the name of Rama: we will build the temple exactly there).” This iconic quote has become the ultimate motive of the Hindu nationalist movement that is getting stronger day by day.

Advani surrounded himself with a plethora of right-wing activists and Hindu supremacists. Along with the involvement of vote bank politics, Advani’s allegiance to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the most obvious cause for the Ram Rath Yatra. Trump too was surrounded by scores of clueless, prejudiced white men who knew more about fishing than running the United States of America. Both hated the minorities - Muslim or African-American.

These were not sudden attacks. They were premeditated with months of build-up.

More than a hundred and fifty thousand kar sevaks gathered outside the Babri Masjid, listening to speeches delivered by Advani, and fellow Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. The police force was utterly inefficient in ensuring the mob didn’t turn violent. They stood by silently as one man slipped through and placed a saffron flag atop the mosque. The brandishing of the flag was mistaken as a signal for the mob to attack, and pandemonium seized the “Ram Janmabhoomi”.

It was L.K Advani’s speech that incited the mob to tear down the religious institution. The kar sevaks were already armed with hammers, axes and grappling hooks, instruments used to tear down the mosque. According to Nalin Verma, a travelling journalist who covered the Ram Rath Yatra, Advani was heard saying the following: “Saugandh Ram ki Khat-e hain; Hum Mandir Wahin Banayegein (We take a vow in the name of Rama: we will build the temple exactly there).” This iconic quote has become the ultimate motive of the Hindu nationalist movement that is getting stronger day by day.

America was no different. 

The 2020 US election was the most controversial presidential election of all time. Never have two candidates been at each other’s throats like Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The Republican Party was vocal about the apparent occurrences of voter fraud. Trump himself set Twitter on fire with every statement he put out on regarding the election results. Calling Trump’s re-election campaign a failure is a given, but his handling of the loss has been infantile. He not only disregarded the election results; he incited the American right-wing to do whatever it takes to ‘stop the count’. Protestors gathered outside ballot-counting institutes and even chanted slogans like ‘Count every vote’, in states where Trump lost.

In the new year, they sought to the most extreme measure -- a coup.

Trump had called for a Save America rally in December 2020. Ali Alexander, an organizer of pro-Trump rallies said, “It was to build momentum and pressure and then on the day change hearts and minds of Congress peoples who weren't yet decided or who saw everyone outside and said, 'I can't be on the other side of that mob.” The rally was funded by a group called America First Policies, chaired by Linda McMahon. If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because she is the wife of Vince McMahon, the CEO of the WWE.

An app called Parler, developed as an “uncensored” alternative to Twitter, was used as a means of planning the storming. (Interestingly, India developed a similar alternative app called “Tooter” where accounts for certain politicians have already been set up). The app has now been kicked off Google Play Services and the Apple store. The police found vehicles with weapons and explosive devices, pushing them to take strict action against the protestors. Unfortunately, the rioters broke into the Capitol building through a door and a broken window through the north-western side. The rioters began wreaking havoc and causing bedlam in the building, forcing the Congresspersons inside the building to seek refuge. Many of them even posted videos to their social media accounts, informing people of the happenings inside the building. The violence, looting and chaos was curbed by 6 pm, and a curfew was announced in Washington. While the events occurred, President Trump was tweeting his love for the rioters, asking them to go home, and continuing to dispute the election results. 

On January 8, Twitter banned Trump permanently.

The true nature and power of right-wing groups have been showcased in these two instances. The hate for minority groups runs deep in both countries.

Since the election of Trump and Modi to office, hate crimes have seen a stark rise. India has witnessed ‘cow lynchings’, ‘love jihad’ laws and the demise of the free press and its journalists.

However, the difference lies here. 

The Capitol Coup has been met by the trying of the rioters and the second impeachment of Trump. Republican Party members even resigned from office. 

PM Narendra Modi was an RSS pracharak during the demolition, and is now running the country. Last year, those involved in the demolition were acquitted of their crimes by the highest judicial court in the country, on the pretence of it not being a “premeditated” attack. The site of the demolition witnessed a grand opening ceremony to lay the stone for the construction of the temple. The Prime Minister and important officials attended the ceremony (blurring the lines between state and church). 

The crime has been sanctified. 

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