As the Ayodhya’s Ram Temple’s Bhoomi Pujan ceremony is approaching, we will take a look back at its vivid history. The timeline of events that made the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya a controversial location.
After a series of court battles and decades of rampage between the Hindus and the Muslims staking claims over the disputed Ayodhya site, a conclusion came last year.
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In November 2019, the Supreme Court’s final judgment ruled that the temple could be constructed at the site. The disputed land was turned over to the trust to build the temple.
SC pronounced that the Muslims would acquire alternative land to build a mosque.
The highly anticipated ceremony for the grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya will take place on August 5. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will perform Shilanyas (to lay the foundation stone) of the Hindu temple.
August 5 also completes the one year since the central government revoked Article 370 that provided semi-autonomy to Kashmir.
Vishva Hindu Parishad ( World Hindu Council), an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist organization, is overseeing the temple construction campaign.
Besides the Prime Minister Narender Modi, other leaders such as L.K Advani, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Yoga master Ramdev, and many more have confirmed their participation in the ceremony.
What is the Ayodhya issue?
The disputes over the Ram Janambhoomi- Babri Masjid, over the years, have taken religious, legal, and political turns. The primary concern was the ownership of the land.
Several Hindu organizations believe that the land is the birthplace of Lord Ram, the revered Hindu God. And therefore, they argue that an ancient temple stood at the same location.
While the counterpart states that the mosque was built on the demolished site with the help of the ruins of the temple. And not after destroying it.
The possession of the land was the central conflict here, which created a rift between both sides.
But how did the Ayodhya land turned into a religious and political battle?
Let’s take a look at the series of events in the Ram Janambhoomi- Babri Masjid case:
1528: Babri Masjid’s construction
Babri Masjid is also known as the ‘Mosque of Babur.’ Mughal Emperor Babar constructed it in 1528.
Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, UP (Image by Outlook India)
Babar came to India at the request of Daulat Khan Lodhi to defeat king Ibrahim Lodhi. After defeating him in the first battle of Panipat in 1526, he began expanding the Mughal empire in India. During his reign, he visited Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh and built the mosque there.
It is said that the mosque had a vast compound where both the Muslims and the Hindus could offer prayers.
1853: First ever recorded conflict
It was the first time in 1853 when an argument between Hindus and Muslims over Babri Masjid arise.
During the rule of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, the Hindus claimed the land and asked for access.
The Faizabad District court stepped in to mediate between the two parties. In 1859, the court said that both the communities could worship at the land. To avoid clashes, the court asked to divide the places of worship by erecting a fence.
Hindus got access to the outer courtyard and Muslims to use the inner courtyard.
1885: Faizabad District Court turned down Mahant Raghubir Das’s plea
In 1885, Mahant Raghubir Das asked the Faizabad district court’s permission to make a canopy on Ram Chabootra outside the disputed structure. But the court dismissed his plea.
In the present-day legal battle, Ram Chabootra became the central argument. Hindus worshipped at Ram Chaootra, built outside the three-dome structure. Many believed that it was built in the 19th century.
1949: Civil Lawsuits filed
The idols of Lord Ram were found under the central dome inside the mosque. Hindus claimed that it ‘miraculously appeared,’ while Muslims said that it was placed inside by the Hindus.
This triggered an argument and ultimately leading to widespread clashes. Both the communities filed a civil lawsuit.
The government announced the land disputed and locked the gates.
Then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru condemned the illegal placement of the idol inside the mosque. He requested to remove the Lord Ram idol. But the local officials denied the orders. According to them, this could have sparked the communal riots.
1950: Plea filed to worship the idol
The suit was filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, seeking permission to conduct prayers to the idols installed inside the dome known as ‘Asthan Janmabhoomi.’ And later by Paramhansa Ramachandra Das to carry out Pooja.
The court restrained the orders to remove the idols and granted permission for worshipping.
However, there were appeals against the court’s decision.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara filed suit for possession of the land
Nirmohi Akhara filed the lawsuit, asking for possession of the site. They are the Hindu religious denomination worshipping Lord Ram.
Claiming themselves to be the keeper of the site at which Lord Ram was born, Nirmohi Akhara became the new competitor for the land. They wanted the right to administer the affairs.
1961: UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs claimed possession
UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs filed a lawsuit for the possession of the mosque and neighboring land. The board was representing the Muslims in the case.
They were against the forceful placement of the Lord Ram idol inside the structure.
1984: Rise of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)
Vishva Hindu Parishad is a right-wing Hindu conservative organization founded in 1964.
In 1984, VHP attempted to make a national call and began the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. BJP leader LK Advani became the face of the campaign. VHP urged the Hindu nationalists to join hands for the construction of ‘Ram Mandir’ at the disputed site.
1986: The court ordered to open the locks for Hindu worshippers
The Faizabad district court, on a plea of Hari Shanker Dubey, ordered to unlock the gates of the disputed site for the Hindu worshippers.
Already raged by the verdict in the Shah Bano Case, Muslims protested against the Faizabad court’s directive. In the Shah Bano case, the judgment was passed against the set Muslim personal law. The Muslim community was fuelled with anger.
The situation became worse that the gates were opened for an hour and locked again.
1989: Ram Temple’s foundation laid
A suit was filed by Deoki Nandan Agarwala, former VHP vice-president, for declaration of the Ayodhya land title at the Allahabad High Court.
All the lawsuits pending before the Faizabad district court were transferred to a unique bench of the Allahabad High Court.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi granted permission to conduct a Shilanyas (laying of foundation stone) of the Ram temple.
On November 9, 1989, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad laid the foundations of the Ram temple. The land adjoining the disputed mosque was supposed to be the base of the temple.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is also a Hindu nationalist organization founded in 1925.
1990: First Attempt of Babri Masjid demolition
In the wake of the growing Hindutva movement, the volunteers from the Hindu organizations tried to demolish the mosque. It was partially damaged.
In September 1990, the RSS, VHP, and BJP decided to build the Ram temple at the Ram Janambhoomi, which was the disputed site.
In a bid to gather support, BJP working President LK Advani organized a Rath Yatra across the country. They wanted the people to come out of their houses and join hands in the construction of the Ram Temple.
The religious volunteers in this movement were termed ‘Karsevaks.’ On the behest of Advani, karsevaks gathered at Ayodhya in October 1990.
The situation became so intense that Ayodhya was put under lockdown. Police prohibited all the transport services, including trains and buses to Ayodhya. Even in the curfew, around 10,000 karsevaks managed to reach there on foot.
On October 30, UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered the security personnel to open fire at the crowd who were marching towards Babri Masjid. The altercation led to the death of 16 karsevaks.
Two days later, they tried again to reach the Babri Masjid. The police responded with tear gas and baton charges. Some groups of karsevaks eluded the security and partially damaged the mosque. As per the UP government, the death toll reached 28.
The news spread so quickly, and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav was called “Mulla” or pro-Muslim. The Hindu organizations were flaming with anger.
1992: Babri Masjid Demolition
The Babri Masjid was brought down by karsevaks on December 6, 1992. The RSS, BJP, and VHP organized the rally of more than one lakh volunteers to demolish the disputed mosque.
Leaders such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi reportedly gave hate speeches.
Though security personnel was prepared for the mob, few karsevaks managed to climb the mosque. And they destroyed it with iron rods, axes, and hammers. Within a few hours, the mosque fell.
Breaking down the mosque sparked nationwide communal riots which claimed more than 2,000 lives. Several leaders were also arrested.
1992: Communal Riots
Hindus and Muslims began attacking each other. The country witnessed one of the worst communal riots. Houses and shops were burned. People of both religions were killed.
Mumbai saw the most intense violence. Around 900 people in Mumbai died following the communal clashes in December 1992 and January 1993. Reportedly Shiv Sena, a right-wing political party operating in Maharashtra, was involved in barbarity.
1992: Appointment of Liberhan Commission
Ten days after the Babri Masjid demolition, Liberhan Commission (Liberhan Ayodhya Commission for Inquiry) was set up to probe the destruction of the mosque. Retired High Court Judge M. S. Liberhan headed the commission.
They had to submit the full report to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the chronology of the events that led to the damage of the mosque.
After 16 years in 2009, the report was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
2002: Godhara incident and Gujarat Riots
On February 27, 2002, a train filled with karsevaks was set on fire while returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat. The train was stopped at the town of Godhara, and within 15 minutes, the coaches were ignited.
At least 59 people, including children and women, were burned to death.
The deadly riots started after the incident. Muslims, including women and children, were attacked. There were also sporadic attacks on Hindus.
More than 2000 people were killed, and around 2500 people were injured.
2002: The Archaeological Survey of India was involved
The Allahabad High Court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India to dig the site and find out if a temple lay beneath the mosque.
In 2003, they presented their report. Some pillars and stone columns were found, which did not indicate Islamic culture, as per the report.
2003: Charge Sheet against LK Advani
CBI filed a charge sheet against the rioters accused of the demolition of Babri Masjid. The Rae Bareli court discharged LK Advani, saying there was not enough material in the case against him.
2005: Trials were resumed
Allahabad High Court stepped in and ordered to resume the trials. HC asked LK Advani and others to stand test.
As the case continued, the Librahan Commission submitted their report after 16 years. They didn’t hesitate to blame organizations like VHP, Bajrang Dal, and leading politicians such as LK Advani, Kalyan Singh, etc. for their role in the demolition of Babri Masjid.
After long delays and other hurdles in the trial, in 2011, the CBI finally approached the Supreme Court and filed an affidavit to reopen the cases for a common trial.
2010: Supreme Court’s Judgement
The Allahabad High Court ruled the three-way division of the disputed land. The site would be split into Nirmohi Akhara, Islamic Waqf Board, and Ram Lalla.
Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and Sunni Waqf Board challenged the final verdict of the Allahabad High Court in the Supreme Court.
2017: Out of court settlement proposal
The Supreme Court asserted that the Babri-Masjid demolition matter is susceptible. SC appealed for out of the court settlements. After holding talks with all the stakeholders, they urged to find a solution.
2017: BJP leaders were charged
The Supreme Court charged the top BJP politicians, including LK Advani, MM Joshi, and Uma Bharti of conspiracy. SC ordered the trial court in Lucknow to conclude the hearing within two years.
2019: Landmark Judgement
The Supreme Court constituted the five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising of Justices S A Bobde, Ashok Bhushan, D Y Chandrachud, and S A Nazeer.
The final hearing in the apex court ended on October 16, 2019. The bench reserved the verdict.
The Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in the decades-old disputed case.
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The disputed land was granted to the trust for the construction of the Ram temple. At the same time, 5-acre land was allotted to Muslims to build a mosque.