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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

New look awaits Ram Janmabhoomi complex, again

Despite various orders, the landscape of Ram Janmabhoomi kept changing from the early days of the hustle and bustle to the iron-barricaded makeshift temple, as of today, on the debris of the demolished mosque.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2019 17:52 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Rapid Action Force flag march near Hanuman Gadi temple in Ayodhya before Supreme court verdict on Ram Janm Bhoomi and Babri mosque dispute Photos by Deepak Gupta
Rapid Action Force flag march near Hanuman Gadi temple in Ayodhya before Supreme court verdict on Ram Janm Bhoomi and Babri mosque dispute Photos by Deepak Gupta
         

The heavily-barricaded Ram Janmabhoomi complex may once again wear a new look after today’s Supreme Court verdict.

Despite various orders, the landscape of Ram Janmabhoomi kept changing from the early days of the hustle and bustle to the iron-barricaded makeshift temple, as of today, on the debris of the demolished mosque.

 Watch: Ayodhya verdict: From PM Modi to Priyanka Gandhi, who said what

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It was in 1528 when the disputed area first underwent a change. The Babri mosque was built and, according to today’s verdict, ‘‘The mosque was clearly not constructed over vacant land and gave credence to the Archaeological Survey of India report that the Babri Masjid was built over a temple.”

But it underscored that the ASI hadn’t specifically opined whether the temple was demolished to build the dispute structure.

In public memory, however, the first transformation of the disputed site happened in December 1949, when the idols of Lord Ram had surreptitiously appeared in the disputed structure. The gates were locked within a week the same year. Thereafter, the legal battle continued along with sporadic communal skirmishes in and around the structure.

Four decades later in 1991, the BJP government headed by chief minister Kalyan Singh, completely changed the complexion of the area. It acquired 2.77 acres of land around the shrine through a notification, ostensibly to promote tourism and provide amenities to the pilgrims. The acquisition was challenged in court, which disallowed transfer of the land or construction of permanent structure thereon.

The Kalyan Singh government had demolished various temples and buildings—Sankat Mochan, Sakshi Gopal Mandir, Falahari Baba, Sumitra Bhawan etc —to level the ground as the court had not banned demolitions. The entire area was levelled where the kar sewaks had later assembled.

Again in early 1992, the Kalyan Singh government had given 42 acres of land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN) on a 99-year lease on an annual rent of Re 1 per year for the construction of Ram Katha Park. The Nyas also bought some land.

The kar sewaks had assembled on the acquired land and the mob went berserk and demolished the heavily barricaded disputed shrine in December 1992. The Centre thereafter acquired 67 acres of land, including the one belonging to the Nyas. Rest is history.

Which Trust?

The verdict reminds many of a letter sent by the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas in February 2002 to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanding restoration of surplus area acquired under the Central Acquisition Act of 1993 to the Nyas.

After the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992, the Centre had acquired the disputed site and 67 acres of land surrounding it. Their contention then was that undisputed land should be handed over to the undisputed owners. They had then mentioned the intense desire of a billion people to construct a Ram temple.

The RJN had even said, “In terms of Supreme Court order, the Central government may retain in its possession sufficient area of undisputed land adjacent to the disputed structure so that a reasonable extent out of that area may be handed over to the successful party, if and when the suits are decided. While doing so, out of the undisputed area belonging to RJN, the disputed area on the western side of the disputed land may also be retained by the Central government to which RJN is agreeable.”

Late Ashok Singhal had signed the letter, along with which he had attached the site plan too.

The 67 acres of land includes a chunk of land identified for giving to the successful party, pockets of government land, boundary line, disputed shrine, proposed construction on the ‘shilanayas’ (foundation) site and land belonging to the Nyas.

Later, the Central government, too, had moved an application in the Supreme Court demanding restoration of the surplus land, which is undisputed, to the rightful owners, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

Now the apex court has asked the Centre to form a trust for the disputed site. Even then the question was raised if the land could be transferred to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas even before settling the dispute.

With BJP governments both at the Centre and in the state, the Nyas would demand its space and not remain silent if the new trust is formed.

The past

In early 1980s, when a handful of saints had walked through the streets of Lucknow, few knew about the contentious Ram temple /Babri mosque issue despite the long battle the communities had been fighting, both in the courts and on the streets since 1850s. First legal case was filed in 1885 and first communal clash was reported in 1853.

The legal battle picked up after December 1949 when the idols of Lord Rama had surreptitiously appeared in the disputed structure. Sporadic skirmishes were also reported, though they were largely localized in nature while the locks were put on the gates of the disputed structure.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, constituted in 1964, launched its first formal ‘Rath Yatra’ in October 1985, demanding unlocking of the disputed structure. Eventually, in February 1986, the court ordered unlocking of the disputed structure.

The ‘shilayanas’ was held in 1989 after an agreement between VHP leaders and the state government, in which the former had given a commitment of adhering to the high court order.

The BJP took a plunge much later in early 1990s when LK Advani had launched a Somnath-Ayodhya yatra and was arrested in Bihar.

Since then till today, the Ayodhya movement saw twists and turns in the legal case even as the VHP and its associated saints intensified public mobilisation through their various programmes. The first was ‘Ram Shila Puja’ in villages across the country.

About 2.5 lakh consecrated ‘shilas’ had reached Ayodhya amid much hype and since then have been stored in and around the disputed structure.

Now, after the Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme Court, locals hope the ‘shilas’, along with the carved stones piled in the Karsewakpuram, would now be used for the construction of the Ram temple.