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Photo Feature: Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi, Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri Temple Conflicts

The 1990s decade was dominated by the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid row. Now, the Gyanvapi mosque row has added another chapter to the country’s history of disputes over religious structures and the spaces they occupy.

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Photo Feature: Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi, Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri Temple Conflicts
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Temple domes and mosque turrets, majestically reaching up to the heavens, have historically defined and defied skylines in Indian urban and rural scapes.

But down below, the ground on which these structures are roo­ted, has also been the turf of tussle between its two biggest religious communities. A tussle that is being played out on the str­e­ets, elections, minds and our courts.

The 1990s decade was dominated by the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid row, over the issue of a mosque constructed over a piece of land where Lord Rama is believed to have been born.

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Babri site after demolition, with CRPF guarding makeshift temple to Ram Lalla Virajman made with cloth & bamboo Photo: Getty Images

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Hindu mob demolishing Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 Photo: Getty Images
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Workshop to carve stones for Ram Temple at Ayodhya Photo: Suresh K. Pandey
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Model of proposed Ram Temple Photo: Getty Images
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Well of peace Gyanvapi mosque against the Varanasi skyline drawn by Purser, from original sketches by Commander Robert Elliot in 1835 Photo: Getty Images
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Gyanvapi mosque after the court-administered survey Photo: PTI
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Police stand guard at Hubballi Idgah maidan for immersion of Lord Ganesha Photo: PTI
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Eye of the storm ADGP Alok Kumar (left) inspects police protection at Idgah maidan, Hubballi Photo: PTI

Now, the Gyanvapi mosque row has added another chapter to the country’s history of disputes over religious structures and the spaces they occupy. The two instances, Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid row, and the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri temple con­flict, in a way serve as bookends to the culture of such confl­i­cts, even as more such disputes have landed at the doors of the judiciary.

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This photofeature is stitched together with photographs and paintings pulled from the past and the present to convey a sense of background to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi temple conflict and the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri temple dispute.

One of the photos here dates back to the mid-1800s and is pai­n­ted by Commander Robert Elliot. Others provide a visual cont­ext to the Babri Masjid, before and after its demolition by mobs in 1992.

(This appeared in the print edition as "The Future of Our Pasts")

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