From Babri Masjid Demolition To Construction Of New Ram Temple, Tracing The 31-Year-Old Controversy In Ayodhya

A right-wing Hindu mob demolished the Babri Masjid on 6 December, 1992. Several BJP leaders were at the time accused in the demolition case which led to violent Hindu-Muslim clashes across the country.

Demolition of Babri Masjid

Thirty one years ago, on the same day, on December 6 – in 1992 – a right-wing Hindu mob demolished the Babri Masjid, leading to nationwide religious riots that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, predominantly Muslims. Former President Dr K.R. Narayanan termed it as India's greatest tragedy since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Veteran BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani was an accused in the case related to the mosque's demolition along with fellow BJP veterans Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, and others. All of the 32 accused were acquitted in 2020 by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. 

What is the row about?

The roots of the conflict trace back to the 16th century when the Babri Masjid was built in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi under the Mughal emperor Babur. The contentious issue arose from the belief held by many Hindus that the mosque was constructed on the ruins of a Hindu temple demolished by Muslim invaders in the same century. Muslims contend that they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949 when some Hindus placed an idol of Ram inside, initiating worship.

The dispute escalated over the years, leading to multiple legal battles over control of the site and the calls for constructing a temple on the mosque's former location gained momentum.

Supreme Court ruling 2019: 

The legal proceedings involved three primary parties - two Hindu groups and the Muslim Waqf Board, responsible for maintaining Islamic properties in India. The Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing political party, and the Nirmohi Akhara, a sect of Hindu monks, were the main litigants in this complex and emotionally charged case.

On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court pronounced its judgement with a majority decision of 2:1. The verdict stated that the 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya would be divided equally among three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara, and 'Ram Lalla,' the infant Ram represented by the Hindu Mahasabha.

The matter then reached the Supreme Court in 2010. On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous verdict, ruling that the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict was incorrect. The court cited a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) providing evidence that the remains of a building "that was not Islamic" were beneath the structure of the demolished Babri mosque.

Considering all the evidence, the court ruled that the disputed land should be given to Hindus for a temple dedicated to Lord Ram. Muslims were allocated land elsewhere to construct a mosque. The court directed the federal government to establish a trust to manage and oversee the construction of the temple. However, it explicitly stated that the demolition of the Babri mosque was against the rule of law.

The verdict was largely seen as a victory for Modi and his supporters, as it helped them and the party gain support among Hindus, who make up around 80 per cent of the country’s 1.4 billion population.

Ram Temple inauguration:

In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Critics argued that the foundation stone-laying for the Ram temple marks the decline of a secular India and the birth of a Hindu nationalist one with the BJP government’s active participation in the event simply reinforcing this fact.

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has been a major electoral issue for the Bharatiya Janata Party. After decades of anticipation and a prolonged legal battle, the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya is now ready. A grand inauguration ceremony is scheduled for January 22, 2024, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in the same year.

The inauguration ceremony is expected to be a significant event, with more than 6,000 people, including Prime Minister Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and other key figures, participating in the Pran Pratistha ceremony at the Ram Temple. However, the construction of a proposed mosque some kilometres away, as mandated by the top court in the Babri Masjid verdict, is yet to begin with the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation saying it does not have the money even to pay the project’s “development charges”.