Genesis of a 900-year-old dispute

Genesis of a 900-year-old dispute


In 1853, the first recorded communal clashes over the Ram Janmabhoomi site took place and in 1859, two years after the sepoy mutiny(the first war of Independence), the British administration put a fence around the site marking separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims. This stood for nearly 90 years. The property dispute went to court for the first time in 1949 after idols of Lord Ram were placed inside the mosque at the instance of the Faizabad district magistrate in an effort to bring about a reconciliation.

In 1984, Hindu groups formed a committee to spearhead the construction of a Ram temple during the Congress regime of Rajiv Gandhi and three years later, a district court ordered the gates of the mosque to be opened after almost five decades and allowed Hindus to worship inside the ‘disputed structure.’ This led to the formation of a Babri Mosque Action Committee. In 1989, foundations of a temple were laid on land adjacent to the ‘disputed structure’.

In 1990, the BJP, led by LK Advani, took out a cross-country rath yatra to garner support for a Ram temple at the site and VHP volunteers partially damaged the Babri mosque.

Two years later, on December 6, 1992, the mosque was demolished by Hindu activists and that led to riots across the country. Ten days after the demolition, the Liberhan Commission was set to probe the incident and it submitted its report on June 2009 - naming LK Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other BJP leaders - almost 17 years after it began its inquiry.

In September 2003, a court ruled that seven leaders, including some prominent BJP leaders, should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque. But no charges were brought against Advani who was then the Deputy Prime Minister. A year later, an Uttar Pradesh court ruled that the order which exonerated him should be reviewed.

The case against the BJP leaders, including Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti as well, was heard by a trial court in Lucknow and in July this year the Supreme Court extended the tenure of the judge hearing the case and set a nine-month deadline for the verdict.

In April 2002, a 3-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court began hearings on determining who owned the site. In September 2010, that Court pronounced the verdict which said the site of Babri mosque is to be divided into three parts, one each going to Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Central Waqf Board. Within months, the contending groups moved the Supreme Court challenging the verdict.

In 2011, the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court order.Earlier it had said the court verdict was strange and surprising.

After mediation proceedings by a Supreme Court-appointed three-member team failed to find an amicable solution this year, a five-judge constitution bench began day-to-day hearings on August 6.

These hearings came to an end after 40 days on October 16, one of the longest  in the court's history,  and the verdict was reserved and set to be declared before November 17, when the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, leading the five-judge constitution bench,was slated to retire.

According to KK Muhammed, a former Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who was part of the first excavation conducted in 1976-77 there is clear evidence that a grand temple stood at the site.

Subsequently, a second excavation was conducted in 2003 as per the directions of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, by which time the mosque had been destroyed and so a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey had to be conducted. All the archaeological discoveries were also videographed and corroborated to the previous findings that indicated a temple.