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Final hearing on Ayodhya dispute in SC today: Mapping a three-decade history

By Deepika

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute in Ayodhya is a decades old issue which has proved to be a source of religious and political conflict.


The first suit regarding the structure was filed in 1885, when the Faizabad Deputy Commissioner refused to let Mahant Raghubar Das build a temple on land adjoining the mosque.

Das then filed a title suit in a Faizabad court against the Secretary of State for India, seeking permission to build a temple on the Chabutra on the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid. The legal battle over the title has gone on for over a century.

Just a day ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya on December 1992, the Supreme Court of India is set to begin final hearing in the politically controversial Babri Masjid-Ram temple dispute case.

Here is the timeline of events of the dispute has gone on for three-decades

  • 1528: A mosque is built on the site, where according to Hindus, Lord Ram, was born.1853: First ever recorded incidents of religious riots in Ayodhya.
  • 1859: British administration erects a fence to separate the places of worship. According to rules set by British, the inner court was used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.
  • 1949: 'Miraculous' appearance of idols of Lord Ram inside the mosque. The idols were allegedly placed there by Hindus. Muslims protest and both parties file civil suits. The government proclaims the premises a disputed area and locks the gates.
  • 1984: A Hindus committee is formed to "liberate" the birth-place of Lord Ram and build a temple in his honour, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP).
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani takes over leadership of the campaign.
  • 1986: District judge orders the gates of the disputed mosque to be opened to allow Hindus to worship there. Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
  • 1989: VHP steps up the campaign, laying the foundations of a Ram temple on land adjacent to the disputed mosque.
  • 1990: VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations, but in vain.
  • 1991: BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located.
  • 1992: The mosque is torn down by supporters of the VHP, the Shiv Sena party and the BJP, prompting nationwide rioting between Hindus and Muslims in which more than 2,000 people die.
  • Incidents of riots were reported in Pakistan and Bangladesh too, where Muslims vandalised Hindu temples and homes. Hindus living in those countries suffered more harassment and discrimination in the following years.
  • 1998: The BJP forms a coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
  • 2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
  • Jan 2002: Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughna Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
  • Feb 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 15 March 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.
  • Mar 2002: Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in riots in Godhra in Gujarat following the train attack.
  • Apr 2002: Three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
  • Jan 2003: Archaeologists begin a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site.Aug 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 fulfil the dying man's wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya. However, he hopes the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
  • Sept 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.
  • Oct 2004: Advani says his party still has "unwavering" commitment to building a temple at Ayodhya, which he said was "inevitable".
  • Nov 2004: A court in Uttar Pradesh rules that an earlier order which exonerated Mr Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.
  • 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.
  • June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating events leading up to the mosque's demolition submits its report - 17 years after it began its inquiry.
  • Nov 2009: There is an uproar in parliament as the Liberhan commission's report is published and it blames leading politicians from the Hindu nationalist BJP for a role in the mosque's razing.
  • Sept 2010: Allahabad High Court rules that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder. Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, is given to Hindus. A lawyer for the Muslim community says he will appeal.
  • May 2011: Supreme Court suspends High Court ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appeal against the 2010 verdict.
  • September 2013: SC advanced by about two months the date of hearing in the Babri Masjid demolition case against L.K. Advani and 19 others after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pleaded for an early hearing which was not opposed by the senior BJP leader.
  • 31 March 2015: SC issues notice to senior BJP leaders, including L.K.Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh, on a plea not to drop charges of criminal conspiracy against them in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
  • 21 March: SC suggests fresh attempts to resolve Ayodhya dispute.
  • 6 April: SC favours time-bound completion of a trial in the case and reserves order on CBI's plea.
  • 19 April 2017: SC restores criminal conspiracy charge against leaders including Advani, Joshi and union cabinet minister Uma Bharti in the case and clubs the trial in the matter pending against VIPs and karsevaks.
  • October 2017, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tried to mediate in the Ayodhya dispute, offering an out-of-court solution. It was rejected by political parties and various religious boards.
  • Last month the Shia Central Waqf Board offered a new proposal to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi conflict in Ayodhya - a Ram temple in Ayodhya, a mosque in Lucknow. Several Muslim bodies have rejected the Shia Board's proposal.

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