Let us take a look at the significant dates related to the 60-year-old dispute over title suit- the ownership of the land - where the Babri mosque was built in the 16th century. The mosque was demolished on Dec 6, 1992, triggering the worst communal riots in the country post-Independence.
Some Hindu mythological texts suggest existence of Lord Ram temple in 12th Century. Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese monk recorded many Hindu temples in Ayodhya in 7th Century CE. Ayodhya is mentioned as the birthplace of Lord Sri Rama in the epic Ramayana, as Lord Vishnu`s seventh incarnation.
Mughal Emperor Babar invades India in 1527 and defeats many Hindu kings and takes over their territories. He appoints his General Mir Banki as Viceroy. Mir Banki visits Ayodhya in 1528 and builds the Mosque after destroying the temple. He christens it as Babri Masjid after his master Babar.
In 1853, first incidents of religious violence at the site are recorded. Hindus and Muslims clash over possession of the Mosque. There are claims that Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabootara were built around this time.
According to British sources, Hindus and Muslims are recorded to worship together in the Babri Mosque complex in the 19th century until about 1855.
In 1859, British colonial rulers annex the Mosque site and create separate Muslim and Hindu places of worship. British colonial administration erects a fence to separate the places of worship, allowing the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.
In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Das files a suit seeking permission to build a canopy on Ram Chabootra.
On March 18, 1886, the Faizabad District Judge passes an order which says that though it is unfortunate to build a Mosque on a land held sacred by Hindus, it is too late to address the grievances since the event occurred 356 years ago.
During mid 20th century, Hindus claim that the Mosque had not been used by Muslims since 1936, and so they take over it in 1949.
In 1949, icons of Lord Ram are placed in the Babri Mosque. At that time, an Indian Muslim Trust Waqf Board owned the land. Both Hindu and Muslim parties file civil suits. The Indian government locks the gates of the Mosque declaring the site "disputed".
In 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das file suits in Faizabad, asking for permission to offer prayers to the idols installed at Asthan Janmabhoomi. Inner courtyard gates are locked, but puja is allowed.
In 1959, Nirmohi Akhara and Mahant Raghunath file a case, claiming to be the sect responsible for conducting puja.
In 1961, Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, UP, files a case claiming the Mosque and the surrounding land was a graveyard.
In 1984 the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an international Hindu organization, launches a massive movement for opening the locks of the Mosque. This activity involved demonstrations, petitions and litigation. It claimed that the Mosque was built after destruction of the temple at the birthplace of Ram. It also claimed that the Mosque was in a rundown condition for not being used for any religious activity by the city`s Muslims.
On 1st February 1986, on a petition of one Hari Shanker Dubey, Faizabad Session Judge allows Hindus to worship at the site and the locks are re-opened. Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
In the late 1980s, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) brings the temple issue to the centerstage of national politics. It along with VHP repeatedly organises larger protests in Ayodhya and around the country.
In 1989, VHP steps up campaign, laying the foundations of a Rama temple on the land adjacent to the disputed Mosque. Former VHP vice-president Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal files a case, seeking the Mosque to be shifted elsewhere.
On 9th November, 1989, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, allows ‘shilanyas’ or ground-breaking ceremony, at an undisputed site.
In 1990, VHP volunteers partially damage the Mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which fail the next year.
In 1991, BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located.
In 1992, a large group of Hindus activists including VHP members camp on the site of the Babri Mosque.
On 25th Sept 1990, the then BJP president L.K. Advani launches a Rath Yatra - an ancient Hindu warrior-style campaign on a chariot that was actually a converted Toyota van - from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
In November 1990, Advani is arrested on the way in Samastipur in Bihar, following which the V.P. Singh-led coalition government, supported by the Left and the BJP, falls after the BJP withdraws support.
On 6th Dec 1992, thousands of karsevaks, who had massed at Ayodhya from all over the country in what was a well-planned operation, demolish the disputed structure. The incident sparks nation-wide communal riots leading to the loss of thousands of lives.
On 16th Dec 1992, M.S. Liberhan Commission headed by Justice Liberhan is constituted by the former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to investigate the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. This order was to ward off criticism against his government for having failed to protect the Mosque.It was stipulated that the Commission complete the inquiry in six months. A large number of VHP workers were testified before the commission.
In1998, BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
In 2001, tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the Mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
In 2002, the Allahabad High Court directs the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the site to determine if a temple lay underneath.
In January 2002, Mr Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughna Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
In February 2002, BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirms deadline of March 15 to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
In March 2002, between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack.
In April 2002, three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
On 12th March 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) begins excavation in Ayodhya on the directions of the Allahabad High Court to ascertain whether a temple existed at the place where the Babri Masjid was built.
In August 2003, the survey says there is evidence of a temple beneath the Mosque, but Muslims dispute the findings. Vajpayee says at the funeral of Hindu activist Ramchandra Das Paramhans that he will fulfill the dying man`s wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya. However, he hoped that the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
In September, 2003, a court rules that seven Hindu leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges are brought against Advani, who was also at the site in 1992.
In October 2004, Advani says his party still has "unwavering" commitment to building a temple at Ayodhya, which he said was "inevitable".
In November 2004, a court in Uttar Pradesh rules that an earlier order which exonerated Advani for his role in the destruction of the Mosque should be reviewed.
In July 2005, suspected Islamic militants attack the disputed site, using a jeep laden with explosives to blow a hole in the wall of the complex. Security forces kill five people they say are militants, and a sixth who was not immediately identified.
On 30th June 2009, the Liberhan Commission submits its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after 17 years of its formation. Its contents are not made public. It has been longest running commission in India`s history with 48 extensions granted by various governments. Politicians like L.K.Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were alleged to be influential in the demolition.
The one-man panel cost the government Rs.8 crore (80 million rupees). In 16 years of its proceedings, the commission recorded statements of several politicians, bureaucrats and police officials including Kalyan Singh, late Narasimha Rao, former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani and his colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati as well as Mulayam Singh Yadav.
On 23rd November, 2009, the Liberhan commission report is leaked to the media. The leaked report concluded that the demolition was planned by top leaders of the BJP.
On 27th July, 2010, a retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chandra Tripathi filed a petition before Allahabad High Court asking it to defer the verdict on the Ayodhya title suits and let all parties resolve the issue through mediation and reconciliation in view of reports in the media that the pronouncement might disturb communal harmony and lead to violence.
The court takes the initiative for an amicable solution to the dispute and calls on counsel for the contending parties to go into the possibility. But no headway is made.
On 17th September, 2010, the Special Bench, at its Bench of Judicature, comprising Justices S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma and Sudhir Agarwal, say that Tripathi`s application lacked merit. It also imposed “exemplary costs” of Rs. 50,000, terming his effort for an out-of-court settlement as a “mischievous attempt”.
Tripathi`s plea is opposed by the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha and the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, which submitted separate replies to the OSD on September 16. Stating that an amicable solution was not possible, they alleged that the application was maligned.
Allahabad High Court on September 30 ruled by a majority verdict that the disputed land in Ayodhya be divided equally into three parts among Hindus and Muslims and that the place where the makeshift temple of Lord Ram
exists belongs to Hindus. Status quo to be mantained till three months.
First Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 18:43