19th October 2018
I’m trying to understand the Ram Mandir issue. In this post (to be further elaborated when I find time), I’ll bring together some historical and legal details. In a further post I’ll try to form a view that is consistent with the principles of liberalism and India’s Constitution (prelim view here).
1528: The Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya, is constructed by Mir Baki on the orders of Mughal emperor Babar. Some consider that it was built on the foundations of a temple which marked the birthplace of Ram.
1885: Mahant Raghubir Das files plea in Faizabad district court seeking permission to build a canopy outside the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure. British India Court rejects plea.
1949: On the night of December 22-23,1949, Hindu miscreants (some of them involved in the murder of Gandhi) in connivance with the local district administration, planted a Ram statue in the mosque (See Dark Night by Jha and Jha).
This led to widespread protests and both communities filed cases, Hashim Ansari for Muslims and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das for Hindus. The government declared the site as disputed and locked the gates to it.
1950: Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das, the chief of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, and Gopal Singh Visharad file suits in Faizabad, seeking permission to pray before the installed idols. The puja was allowed though the inner courtyard gates remain locked.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main parties to the dispute, and others file a case and sought permission again to conduct prayers and seeking possession of the site.
1961: Sunni Central Board of Waqfs in Uttar Pradesh files a case claiming the mosque, and argues that the surrounding area was a graveyard.
1981: UP Sunni Central Waqf Board files suit for possession of the site.
1984: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad constitutes a group to continue the movement as BJP leader L K Advani is made the leader of the campaign.
February 1, 1986: Faizabad district judge orders the gates of the structure be opened for Hindus to offer prayers. Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed soon after this. “The doors of the Bahri Masjid were opened for worship at the Ram shrine in 1986….When the gates to the disputed shrine in the Bahri Masjid were unlocked on February 1, 1986, Syed Shahabuddin took the lead in organizing a Muslim agitation in protest.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
1989: Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi allows shilanyas or a ground-breaking ceremony in an undisputed site close to the structure. The hearing of the case is subsequently shifted to the High Court. “In 1989 Rajiv permitted the performance of shilanyas (laying of foundation stone). Indeed, he performed shilanyas himself near Ayodhya at the start of the 1989 election campaign”[Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article].
Aug 14, 1989: Allahabad HC ordered maintenance of status quo in respect of the disputed structure. “The retired judge Deoki Nandan Agarwal collected revenue records and other documents to claim the land belonged to Ram before filing a writ petition before the Allahabad high court in 1989. In his suit, he appointed Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman—Ram himself—as the lead plaintiff. He pronounced himself Ram Lalla’s “next friend”—a provision that would allow him to conduct legal battle on Ram’s behalf.” [Source]
September 25,1990: Advani launches a rath yatra (pilgrimage procession) from Somnath to Ayodhya to galvanise support for the issue countrywide. The yatra traversed 10,000 kilometres through the country in a jeep designed like a chariot, with the rallying cry of “Mandir wahin banayenge”—the temple will only be built there. The yatra left a trail of communal clashes wherever it went. It came to a head with the demolition of the mosque by a 300,000-strong mob. The incident led to one of the worst outbreaks of communal violence in modern India. [Source]
November 1990: Advani’s rath is stopped and he is arrested in Samastipur, Bihar. Dissatisfied with the development, the BJP withdraws its support to the VP Singh government, triggering fresh elections. The saffron party makes giant strides in the assembly elections by winning a majority.
July 1992: The Bahri Masjid controversy flared up dangerously in July 1992 when the Uttar Pradesh state government showed great reluctance to stop the kar seva (holy volunteer work) at Ayodhya. On July 21 the Sant Samaj (congregation of holy men) rejected a proposal from Prime Minister Rao to suspend the ongoing kar seva for construction of the temple and enter into a dialogue with the central government. The following day the VHP asked the kar sevaks to ignore the Supreme Court’s commentaries on the dispute. As far as the VHP and the Sant Samaj were concerned, the dispute was beyond the competence of any court to decide. The BJP government of the state refused to countenance the use of force against the kar sevaks and prepared instead for central government intervention to enforce the court’s orders. [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
November 23, 1992: “The National Integration Council had met on November 23, and the central government had received intelligence reports warning of specially trained squads being arranged during the kar seva for purposes inimical to the security of the Bahri Masjid structure.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
Dec 6, 1992: Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure demolished by Hindutva ruffians called “kar sevaks”, led by BJP criminals. A makeshift temple was placed in its place. The PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress government then moved court for status quo. “In the tense post-demolition atmosphere, the Shahi Imam was in the forefront, demanding the right of Muslims to offer namaaz (Muslim prayers) at the disputed site.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
December 21,1992: “In the Lok Sabha debate on December 21, 1992, Narasimha Rao argued that Article 356 of the Constitution was too restrictive to have permitted him to dismiss the BJP government before the mosque’s demolition and that perhaps it needed to be amended.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“The Bajrang Dal, RSS, and VHP (and two Muslim organizations) were banned by the government after December 6 as communal organizations.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“Stung by allegations of having been too cautious in UP, Narasimha Rao took the extra-precautionary measure of dismissing all BJP state governments-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh-after the Ayodhya demolition.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“Rao promised that the mosque would be rebuilt. But in the meantime, the Hindu mob that had destroyed the mosque had built a makeshift temple on the ruins and installed images of Ram. A new mosque could not be built on the site without first destroying the temple and the images.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“On January 2, 1993, the district administration of Ayodhya lifted the ban and permitted Hindus to worship at the Ram shrine on the site of the demolished mosque.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“A mass BJP rally in Delhi at the end of February 1993 was thwarted by a massive police deployment.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
“Whatever Hindus might think … of the installation of Ram idols in Ayodhya, the sobering fact is that it was accomplished by mob rule of the worst sort: defiance of constitutional authority with the passive connivance of the police and the state government.” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
Apr 3, 1993: ‘Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act’ passed for acquisition of land by Centre in the disputed area.
“On January 24, 1993, the government promulgated a presidential ordinance to acquire almost 68 acres of land in and around the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid complex at Ayodhya. The land is to be handed over to two trusts, one to build a temple and the other a mosque” [Ramesh Thakur’s 1993 Asian Survey article]
1993: Various writ petitions, including one by Ismail Faruqui, filed at Allahabad HC challenging various aspects of the Act.
Oct 24, 1994: SC says in the Ismail Faruqui case that a mosque was not integral to Islam.
May 4, 2001: Special Judge SK Shukla drops conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Advani and Kalyan Singh. Bifurcates Crimes 197 and 198.Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order, dismisses the CBI’s revision petition for a direction to proceed with the conspiracy charge against Advani and others.
Apr, 2002: HC begins hearing on determining who owns the disputed site.
March 5, 2003: The Allahabad High Court orders the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the disputed site in order to determine whether a temple existed where the mosque stood.
Mar 13, 2003: SC says, in the Aslam alias Bhure case, no religious activity of any nature be allowed at the acquired land.
Mar 14 2003: SC says interim order passed should be operative till disposal of the civil suits in Allahabad HC to maintain communal harmony.
August 22, 2003: ASI submits its report to the Allahabad High Court, saying it had found features of a 10th century temple beneath the site of the masjid.
August 31, 2003: All India Muslim Personal Law Board says it would challenge the ASI report.
June 30, 2009: The Liberhan Commission, constituted soon after the Babri Masjid demolition by the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led government, submits its report. In its report, retired High Court Judge MS Liberhan concluded that several BJP leaders had a role in the incident.
July 26, 2010: The bench reserves its judgment and advised all parties to solve the issue amicably. But no one was keen.
September 23, 2010: The plea for an out-of-court settlement reaches Supreme Court and the apex body says it would hear it again on September 28.
September 28, 2010: Supreme Court rejects petition for deferment and gives the nod to the Allahabad High Court to deliver the judgment. The High Court chooses September 30 as verdict day.
September 30, 2010: The Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority, rules three-way division of the 2.77 acres of the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman.
February, 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court, argues that “the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid and the continuous assault on media persons form a single connected transaction and can well be a concerted conspiracy.”
May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya land dispute. [“In 2010, the high court in Allahabad ruled that one-third of the land would go to Ram Lalla, while the remaining would be split between the other two plaintiffs. The next year, the Supreme Court stayed the order on grounds that no party had wanted a three-way split – Source].
December 25, 2014: Mohammad Farooq, the oldest litigant in Babri Masjid case passes away. Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main litigants from Muslim side in the 1949 Babri Masjid case.
Feb 26, 2016: Subramanian Swamy files plea in SC seeking construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site.
March 21, 2017: Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar advises peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably.
March 23, 2017: A Supreme Court Bench of Justices PC Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader LK Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
April 6, 2017: Supreme Court indicates it will use its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the Babri Masjid demolition related trial in Rae Bareilly against top BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to Lucknow, where a CBI court was hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
April 19, 2017: Supreme Court revives conspiracy charges against LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition case.
May 30, 2017: Senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar charged with criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Aug 7, 2017: SC constitutes three-judge bench to hear pleas challenging the 1994 verdict of the Allahabad HC.
August 8, 2017: Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board informs the Supreme Court that they would settle for a masjid located in a “Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram.”
August 11, 2017: Supreme Court schedules hearing of 13 appeals in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on December 5, 2017, the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century mosque.
Sep 11, 2017: SC directs Chief Justice of the Allahabad HC to nominate two additional district judges within ten days as observers to deal with the upkeep of the disputed site.
Nov 20, 2017: UP Shia Central Waqf Board tells SC temple can be built in Ayodhya and mosque in Lucknow.
Dec 1, 2017: Thirty-two civil rights activists file plea challenging the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad HC.
December 5, 2017: Supreme Court defers the commencement of final hearing in the Ayodhya dispute matter to February 8, 2018. The stakeholders had moved the SC after the Allahabad High Court directed the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla to settle for a three-way division of the disputed site.
Feb 8, 2018: SC starts hearing the civil appeals.
Mar 14, 2018: SC rejects all interim pleas, including Swamy’s, seeking to intervene as parties in the case.
Apr 6, 2018: Rajeev Dhavan files plea in SC to refer the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement to a larger bench.
Jul 6, 2018: UP government tells SC some Muslim groups were trying to delay the hearing by seeking reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.
Sep 27, 2018: SC declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.