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Communal violence is no new story, especially when it comes to Hindus and Muslims. The two religions have always been at odds with each other, at times taking a very violent turn. The Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid case or the Ayodhya dispute is one long-standing example that has been at the core of a lot of communal violence incidents. But what is the dispute about?
The Core Issue
The Ayodhya dispute is essentially a land dispute. The reason it has taken such a serious turn is mainly because of the parties involved. Ayodhya is a city in the district of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. Hindus consider the place to be the birthplace of Lord Rama – one of the most revered gods in Hinduism.
They allege that in 1528, Mir Baqi, one of Mughal king Babur’s generals, destroyed the Rama temple and built a mosque called Babri Masjid. The first recorded incidents of violence were in 1853 and the fight has been going on ever since.
Chronology of Events
- In 1859, the British administration constructed a fence, dividing the places of worship. Muslims prayed in the inner court and Hindus in the outer court.
- Suddenly, in 1949, idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the mosque, allegedly by Hindus. Both Muslim and Hindus filed civil suits and the area was locked by the government.
- In 1986, Faizabad District Judge K M Pandey ordered that the gates of the mosque be opened for Hindu worship. In protest, Muslims set up a Babri Mosque Action Committee. Hindus also formed a committee, headed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
- In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the mosque. This was followed by nation-wide clashes between the Hindus and Muslims. According to reports, more than 2000 people died.
- In January 2002, then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up an Ayodhya cell in his office, headed by senior official Shatrughana Singh, to discuss the matter with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
- In February 2002, VHP confirms a deadline of 15 March to begin construction of the Rama Temple on the disputed site, which it had vowed to do earlier. 58 people were reportedly killed in an attack on a train carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
- In March 2002, 1000 to 2000 people died in Gujarat following riots after the train attack.
- In April 2002, hearing begins in Allahabad High Court on the disputed land issue.
- In January 2003, court orders a survey to determine whether a Ram temple existed underneath the Babri Masjid. In August 2003, archaeologists affirm evidence of a temple beneath the mosque but this is disputed by Muslims.
- In September 2003, 7 Hindu leaders are ordered by a court to stand trial for the destruction of the Babri Mosque.
- In July 2005, Islamic militants allegedly attack the site, blowing a hole in the wall of the complex using explosives. Security forces kill 5 people who they claim were militants and a sixth who wasn’t identified.
- In June 2009, the Liberhan commission – set up 17 years ago – submits its report on the events leading to the demolition of the mosque. There was a huge uproar when it was published in November 2009 as it blamed leading politicians for the demolition.
- Allahabad High Court, in September 2010, ordered for a split in three parts going to Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu party).
- In May 2011, the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court verdict calling it “strange” as no party had asked for it.
- In February 2018, the Supreme Court bench, led by the CJI, said that it will treat the dispute merely as a “land issue”.
- In April 2018, the Supreme Court ruled against a plea to immediately refer the case to a larger bench. The next date of hearing is April 27.
The way this dispute goes would be an important testimony to the strength of law in this country and its resistance to communal politics. At a time when communal tensions are strife, and religion and politics go hand-in-hand, the Ayodhya dispute needs to be looked at with the most secular mindset.
The end to this dispute does not seem to be near. Whatever the Honourable Supreme Court decides will definitely be significant, given the long history and the strong powers involved.
– Sakshi Shivpuri
St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai