Matters : the power, subjectivity, and space of India’s mughal architecture
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Facing a no-confidence vote in November of 1990, V. P. Singh, India’s eighth prime minister, posed a resounding question to an audience of MPs: “What kind of India do you want?” With this question, Singh signaled the irony of a secular nation-state indulging the Hindu nationalist demand to demolish the Babri Masjid, a small sixteenth-century mosque. The ultimate aim of this endeavor, known as the kar seva (service), was to build a Hindu temple in place of the mosque to simultaneously mark the birthplace of the god Ram and symbolize Hindu political resurgence. In fact, the plan was no longer just being debated and was gaining noticeable traction among uppercaste Hindus and Lok Sabha parliamentarians. Singh himself gave a straightforward answer to the question of what kind of India he wanted: a secular, democratic country based on the rule of law. He thus resolved to protect the small mosque at all costs because that was simply what he, the leader of the world’s largest secular democracy, was charged to do. Unlike the Congress Party governments before and after him, Singh did not waver in his commitment to the protection of the Muslim minority and its built heritage. Toward this end, he had L. K. Advani, the organizer of the planned demolition, arrested. He then deployed security forces to surround the historic Mughal mosque and thwart its planned destruction. The prime minister’s principled stance to protect the space of the mosque enraged Hindu nationalists and compelled their political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to pull support for Singh’s coalition government. This eventually cost Singh his post
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