The dispute over Babri Masjid had defined Indian politics in the closing decades of the 20th century. As the court gets ready to deliver judgment on who owns the disputed site, we take a look at how the issue has developed over the centuries.
Babri Masjid is built, apparently at the behest of the first Mughal emperor, Babar, by his general Mir Baqi. A.S. Beveridge’s English translation of Tuzuk-i-Babari (Babur’s autobiography, written in Turkish) mentioned no such thing.
First recorded incident of violent conflict over the mandir-masjid issue between Hindus and Muslims. The Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, tackled the problem then.
A Hindu priest filed a petition for building a temple next to the mosque but was denied permission.
An idol of Lord Ram mysteriously appeared inside the mosque. Hindus began offering prayers. Local Muslims protested and both parties filed civil suits, the city magistrate attached the property and locked the gates but prayers continued. There was correspondence between UP Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on this. Nehru wanted the idols removed, but nothing was done.
Local resident Gopal Singh Visharad filed a suit before Faizabad’s civil judge on January 16 asking for unrestricted darshan. Ramchandra Das Paramhans too filed a similar suit. Formal beginning of the judicial history of the dispute.
Religious sect Nirmohi Akhara filed case claiming rights over the land.
The Sunni Waqf Board put in its claim for the restoration of the mosque. 1984 VHP launched a temple construction movement and on October 7, a “liberation” march from Sitamarhi in Bihar to Lucknow reached Ayodhya for an oath-taking ceremony. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, and the miserable performance of the BJP (two seats) in the Lok Sabha elections in December did not allow things to take off.
A man called Umesh Chand Pandey filed a case saying the locked gates interfered with the right to worship. On February 1, the Faizabad sessions judge allowed Hindus to worship at the site. The VHP celebrates the decision. The Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed within a month.
Nearly 200,000 shilan pujas are held all over India leading to riots, notably in Bhagalpur in Bihar. On behalf of the deity, The Allahabad High Court issued an interim directive to maintain the status quo pending final judgment. All district court cases were transferred to it. The movement for the construction of the temple started at this point. The opposition, led by V.P. Singh, began to ride on this movement. Mass defections from the Congress led by Arun Nehru and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed started.
November 9, 1989
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi allowed shilanyas at an “undisputed site” before the Lok Sabha elections. This is followed by rioting.
BJP President L.K. Advani went on a rath yatra and is arrested in Bihar. Thousands of kar sevaks gather in Ayodhya, the mosque is partially damaged and 30 are killed in police firing. The BJP withdrew support to the V.P. Singh government. The Congress supported the next government at the Centre.
Places of Worship Bill passed by the Lok Sabha said all religious places would be maintained according to their status on August 15, 1947. Ayodhya was left out on the grounds that the matter was in court. The UP government took possession of the 2.77 acres adjoining the disputed site, ostensibly for pilgrim facilities. Babri Masjid Action Committee challenged the notification.
November 28, 1992
The Supreme Court accepted the plea by the UP government to allow the singing of hymns at the site. The state government assured court that the structure would be protected.
December 6, 1992
The Babri Masjid was demolished by kar sevaks. Rioting broke out all over India, leaving 1,200 people dead.
January 7, 1993
The Centre acquired 67 acres surrounding the disputed site and quashed all pending suits through an Ordinance.
October 24, 1994
The Supreme Court rejected the single-point presidential reference on whether or not a temple existed before the mosque. It upheld the Ayodhya acquisition of 1993 but rejected quashing pending cases.
VHP set a deadline of March 15 to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converged on site.
March 13, 2002
The Supreme Court ruled out bhoomi puja at Ayodhya.
Archaelogical Survey of India, which started digging on the orders of the Allahabad High Court, said that remains similar to that of a temple were found during excavations.
Terror attack at the disputed place. Six killed by five terrorists.
November 24, 2009
Liberhan Commission (set up to investigate why the demolition happened) report tabled in both houses of Parliament. The commission indicted Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
September 28, 2010
The Supreme Court dismissed the plea to defer judgment on the title suit. It had earlier stayed the judgment for a week on September 23.
Judgment expected from the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court.