In this series, we travel back to the turbulent 1990s to see what impact the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had on south India. We found that Karnataka was as enthusiastic then as it is now about militant Hindutva. But the other states in the region weren’t entirely immune to the flames of hate.A karsevak from Husnabad from Karimnagar district was reportedly the first person to climb the dome of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, before it was torn down. Frenzied karsevaks from Husnabad in Karimnagar district, the native place of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, were specifically asked to lead the kar seva from the front by LK Advani, a report published by The Hindu on December 11 1992, said.While southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala largely remained indifferent to the Ram Janmabhoomi cause, the contributions of activists from undivided Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are significant. It is estimated that at least 1,033 people were killed in violent incidents across India following the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6 1992. In undivided Andhra Pradesh 20 persons lost their lives. In 1989, an amount of Rs 8.29 crore was collected for building Ram Temple by organisers of Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The contribution of undivided Andhra Pradesh towards the cause was Rs 50 lakh, says Valay Singh, author of Ayodhya: City of Faith, City of Discord. .Interestingly, the communally-sensitive Hyderabad, which had witnessed numerous communal riots before the demolition, was able to contain the violence to a larger extent under Chief Minister Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy. Following the December 6 incident, the police detained nearly 2,000 activists from various communal organisations and declared curfew to effectively curtail violence. On December 17, 1992, the Congress government informed the Assembly that 20 people were killed across the state and 191 were injured. According to Venkaiah Naidu, who was the state vice president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the time, at least 14,000 karsevaks from united Andhra Pradesh (9,000 from Telangana) participated in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, from Karimnagar district in Telangana, was at the helm of affairs during the demolition of the Babri Masjid which forever changed the course of Indian history. Narasimha Rao faced wide criticism for his failure to prevent the demolition of the historic 400-year-old mosque despite having intelligence about the intention of the karsevaks. The mosque was built in 1528 by Commander Mir Baqi under Mughal Emperor Babur.The Babri mosque measuring 1,500 square yards in Ayodhya, claimed to be the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama, had become a site of dispute since the 1950s. The Hindus claim that the mosque was constructed after demolishing a temple. The Supreme Court verdict in 2019 paved the way for the construction of the temple in the disputed site. In Telangana, while the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) hesitates to credit any single person for the ‘success’ of the polarising project, Ale Narendra or Tiger Narendra, remains as the popular face of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in Telangana that resulted in violent riots and terrible loss of lives across India..Who was ‘Tiger’ Narendra?Ale Narendra was a BJP leader who won the Himayat Nagar Assembly constituency in 1983, 1988 and 1992. He also served as the vice-president of the BJP and a minister in the Union cabinet. Ale Narendra, who belonged to Padmashali community (Backward Class), was also a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Owing to his rivalry with the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party in Hyderabad, made him a popular ‘Hindu’ leader and earned him the moniker of ‘Tiger.’ At present, Goshamahal MLA Raja Singh, who has been booked several times for his hate speeches against Muslims, enjoys the title of ‘Tiger.’ The VHP, which spearheaded the movement, appointed Narendra as a Vahini Pramukh or convener of the Hyderabad region. He was entrusted with the responsibility of mobilising Hindus to be part of the Ram Mandir construction movement and lead the karsevaks from Telangana to reach Ayodhya in 1990 and 1992.Ahead of LK Advani’s Rath Yatra, which began in September 1990, Narendra who had observed ‘Rama Deeksha’ – a rite performed prior to the consecration – visited several villages across the united Andhra Pradesh mobilising support for the Hindu cause. “Since 1987 my father visited several villages seeking support for the Ram Mandir cause. He braved all kinds of police harassment including threats for his participation in the movement,” says Ale Jithendra, his son, who is also a member of the BJP. Narendra’s other son Ale Bhaskar Raj is the BJP’s OBC Morcha president, Telangana. Advani’s Rath Yatra covering almost 11,000 kms was announced after the then Prime Minister VP Singh announced partial implementation of the Mandal Commission. Progressive groups have long held that the BJP, fearing a division among Hindus based on caste identity, used the Ram Janmabhoomi movement to consolidate them.Narendra was crucial in readying the roadmap for Advani’s rath yatra in Telangana, which had entered the state from Karnataka. The VHP office bearers proudly recall his contribution to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement by putting himself in the line of danger.“As a Vahini Pramukh (convenor) he led 1,000 Karsevaks from Telanagna in 1990. In the first attempt, they reached Ayodhya but faced police brutality. The karsevaks who went along with him assumed that he died and left him,” recalls G Ramesh, VHP Gau Raksha co-convenor, G Ramesh. Narendra, who was detained by the police, was later escorted back by the Uttar Pradesh police.In October 1990, following the arrest of Advani in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav, Hyderabad witnessed minor rioting, allegedly masterminded by the BJP, leading to an imposition of curfew for 15 days, according to social activist Afsar Ali Engineer. Though there had been disturbances in the city, it flared up on December 8 following the murder of a Hindu boy. In retaliation, 50 people were stabbed of whom 20, mostly Muslims, died. According to Afsar Ali Engineer’s report, the dissidents from the Congress party were behind these attacks to destabilise the Chenna Reddy government. The incident led to a cycle of violence in Hyderabad. Following the Babri Masjid incident in 1992, NT Rama Rao from Andhra Pradesh, who was the Opposition Leader, harshly criticised PV Narasimha Rao in the Assembly for his failure to prevent karsevaks from gathering at the mosque and pulling down the structure. He demanded that the PM should step down for his ineptness. Following the ban on five organisations –VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami and Islam Seva Sangh – by PV Narasimha Rao and arrests of several activists from these groups, Rao also faced criticism from the BJP. Bandaru Dattatreya, a BJP leader, asked if the PM had prior information about 500 karsevaks storming into the mosque and demolishing it why did he not take preventive action. While the rise of ‘Tiger’ Narendra was mercurial, his decline too was sudden. Upset with the BJP leadership for sidelining him, Narendra formed Telangana Sadhana Samithi (TSS) for the separate state cause in 2001. But a year later, TSS was merged with K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). In 2007, the TRS unceremoniously removed him from the party for his alleged involvement in human trafficking. According to the allegations, Narendra possessed the passports of two TRS leaders – Madhusudhan Reddy and D Ravindra Naik – and was allegedly using them for trafficking humans. In 2011, he joined the BJP again. .Karsevaks from Telangana in the forefrontEight karsevaks from Husnabad allegedly participated in the Babri Masjid demolition. They said that they were given ‘special training’ to bring down the mosque. Karsevaks who reached Ayodhya on November 27 were inducted into the Bajrang Dal along with hundreds of Hindu militants belonging to the outfit. They were reportedly trained how to face the police and protect themselves from teargas. They alleged that the Masjid was demolished according to a carefully drafted plan. These karsevaks revealed that the Bajrang Dal had even formed a ‘suicide squad’ who will lead the demolition from the forefront and face any eventuality, according to report from The Hindu on December 11, 1992. Corroborating this allegation, Cobra Post’s sting investigation in 2014 revealed that the Bajrang Dal had conducted a month-long military style training for 38 of its cadre from Sarkhej in Gujarat on how to demolish the mosque using chisels, heavy-duty hammers, pickaxes, spades, grappling hooks and sturdy ropes. The investigation said that the training was provided by retired high-ranking military officers, while ideological indoctrination was given by leaders like Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Acharya Dharmendra, Dr Praveen Togadia, Jaibhan Pawaiya and Ashok Singhal.The Bajrang Dal cadres were provided training in climbing taller structures with the help of grappling hooks and ropes. However, they were not apprised of the plan until the top VHP office bearers asked them to form ‘Laxman Sena’ with the specific purpose of demolishing the Masjid in a top secret meeting that was held in the basement of Ram Katha Manch, as per Cobra Post.