1528-2003: Babri row in a nutshell
The Babri Masjid was built in 1528, apparently at the behest of Mughal emperor Babar. The VHP claims it was built over an 11th century temple.
The first recorded incident of violence over the issue between Hindus and Muslims was in 1853, during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. In 1885, a Hindu priest filed a petition for building a temple next to the mosque but was denied permission.
An idol of Ram Lala mysteriously appeared inside the mosque in 1949. 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.
On January 16, 1950, local resident Gopal Singh Visharad filed a suit before Faizabad's civil judge, asking for unrestricted darshan. Ramchandra Das Paramhans also filed a similar suit. In 1984 the VHP launched a movement for a Ram temple. In 1986, Umesh Chand Pandey filed a case saying locked gates interfered with the right to worship. On February 1, the Faizabad sessions judge allowed Hindus to worship at the site. The Babri Masjid Action Committee was formed within a month.
Movement for Ram temple
In 1988-1989, nearly two lakh shilan pujas were held all over India leading to riots. On behalf of the deity, Justice Devaki Nandan Agarwal filed a case in July 1998. The Allahabad High Court issued an interim directive to maintain the status quo pending final judgment. All district court cases were transferred to it.
On November 9, 1989 the then Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi allowed shilanyas at an "undisputed site" before the Lok Sabha elections. In the elections, the BJP tally rose to 86 from the previous 2. In 1990, BJP president L.K. Advani went on a rath yatra but was arrested in Bihar. Thousands of kar sevaks gathered in Ayodhya, the mosque was partially demaged and 30 were killed in police firing. The V P Singh government fell.
In August 1992, kar sevaks laid a large foundation east of the Babri Masjid. In November 28, 1992, the Supreme Court accepted the UP government's plea to allow the singing of hymns at the site. The state government assured court that the structure would be protected.
On December 6, 1992 frenzied kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid. Riots all over India left 1,200 people dead. Two FIR lodged with Ayodhya kotwali blamed innumerable kar sevaks and senior VHP-BJP leaders including Advani, Ashok Singhal, Uma Bharti for the demolition.
After the Centre recommended dismissal of the BJP led governments in four states including Uttar Pradesh, the BJP tried to take political mileage with Kalyan Singh, the sacked Chief Minister taking out countrywide rath yatras as the demolition hero. But the BJP's political strength in the UP assembly took a dip in the next election.
BJP shelves agenda
After the NDA government came to power at the Centre, the BJP quietly shelved the controversial Ayodhya issue. But the VHP kept the issue alive. At Vajpayee's behest, efforts were made to find a solution through talks. The Shankaracharya of Kanchi was roped in for talks with All India Muslim Personal Law Board. First time the talks failed to take off. Second time the Kanchi seer succeeded in bringing members of the AIMPLB on the negotiating table. However talks failed over the contents of Kanchi's formula that suggested construction of Rama temple at the disputed site.
ASI starts excavation
On March 12, 2003, the ASI began excavations in Ayodhya on the directives of Allahabad High Court. It submitted three interim reports and concluded excavation work on August 7.
On August 1, 2003 Vajpayee attended the cremation of the Ramjanmbhoomi Nyas president Ramchandra Das Paramhans and declared that all the hindrances in the way of construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya would be removed. His remarks later create furore in parliament.On August 22, the ASI submitted its final report to the High Court. The report was opened on August 25.