Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5. The 'Bhoomi Pujan' on Wednesday will be a culmination of a dispute that lasted for nearly 166 years.
The controversy over the temple began in 1853. After the construction of the mosque, Hindus alleged that the place where the mosque was built was earlier the temple, which had been demolished to construct the mosque. On December 6, 1992, thousands of 'kar sevaks' came together to Ayodhya and demolished the "disputed structure" which led to communal riots across the country.
As PM Modi is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the temple, one might wonder what Modi was doing when the "movement" for the demolition of "disputed structure" was started.
LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and few others have been accused of being involved in the conspiracy to demolish the mosque.
As the temple movement gained momentum, in September 1990, Advani, the then BJP President, embarked on a Rath yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
And when L K Advani planned a Rath Yatra, PM Modi was tasked with coordinating the yatra from Somnath in Gujarat on September 25, 1990, to Mumbai.
Modi was then a member of the BJP’s national election committee.
The decade-old dispute was settled last year when the Supreme Court ordered that the site be given to a trust to build a Ram temple, and that alternative land be provided in Ayodhya for a mosque.
History of the dispute
The controversy over the temple began in 1853. After the construction of the mosque, the Hindus alleged that the place where the mosque was built, was earlier the temple of Lord Ram, which had been demolished to construct the mosque.
In 1885, this case reached the court for the first time when Mahant Raghubar Das filed an appeal in the Faizabad court for permission to build a Ram temple adjacent to the Babri Masjid.
In 1859, the British government erected a wire fence to allow separate prayers to Muslims and Hindus in the inner and outer premises of the disputed land.
A statue of Lord Rama was placed on this central site on December 23, 1949. After this, the Hindus started worshipping at the place regularly while Muslims stopped offering namaaz there.
On January 16, 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed an appeal in the Faizabad court, seeking special permission to worship Ram Lalla.
A few months later, on December 5, 1950, Mahant Paramahansa Ram Chandra Das also filed a lawsuit to continue the Hindu prayers and keep the statue of Lord Rama in the disputed structure.
Nine years later, on December 17, 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed a lawsuit to transfer the disputed site and on December 18, 1961, the Sunni Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh also filed a lawsuit, seeking ownership of the Babri Masjid and removal of idols from mosque premises.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) campaign in 1984
In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) started a campaign to open the locks of the disputed structure. A committee was also formed for the purpose.
On February 1, 1986, the Faizabad district judge K.M. Pandey allowed Hindus to worship at the disputed site.
The locks were reopened, but this angered some of the Muslim organizations and they formed the Babri Masjid Action Committee to protest.
In 1989, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) announced formal support to the VHP, thereby giving a new life to the temple movement.
It was at this point that a massive movement for Ram temple began that, in the years to come, changed the complexion of national politics.
On July 1, 1989, a fifth lawsuit was filed in the name of Lord Ramlala Virajaman.
The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, on November 9, 1989, allowed the 'shilanyas' (laying of foundation stone) near the disputed structure.
As the temple movement gained momentum, in September 1990, the then BJP President, Lal Krishna Advani embarked on a Rath yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
Advani was arrested in Samastipur, Bihar by the Lalu Yadav government.
In October 1991, the Kalyan Singh government in Uttar Pradesh acquired 2.77 acres of land near the disputed structure and gave it to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas on lease.
The Allahabad High Court, however, ordered that no permanent structure would be built there.
The temple movement reached a crescendo on December 6, 1992 when thousands of 'kar sevaks' came together to Ayodhya and demolished the disputed structure, which led to communal riots across the country.
This led to the dismissal of the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh after the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992.
The Liberhan Commission was formed a few days later to investigate those responsible for provoking the demolition of the mosque.
In January 2002, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee started an Ayodhya department in his office. This department's job was to resolve the dispute between Hindus and Muslims.
In April the same year, a three-judge bench began hearing on the ownership of the disputed site in Ayodhya.
The Archaeological Survey of India started excavation in Ayodhya in 2003, under the instructions of the Allahabad High Court. The ASI claimed that there was evidence of the temple remains under the disputed structure, but the Muslims had different opinions about it.
In September 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered the historic verdict and divided the disputed land into three parts -- one part was given to the Ram temple, the other to Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara got the third.
After the SC verdict:
The High Court decision was challenged in Supreme Court and after efforts to amicably resolve the dispute failed, the apex court, on November 9, 2019, gave its verdict - the disputed land shall be given to Hindus for the construction of a temple and a separate plot of 5 acres would be given to Muslims in Ayodhya for the construction of a mosque.
The court also asked the government to set up a Trust that would oversee temple construction.
The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust was set up in February this year to initiate temple construction.
Had it not been for the Corona pandemic and the national lockdown, the temple construction would have started in April on Ram Navami.
The state government, meanwhile, has given five acres of land to Muslims in Dhannipur in Ayodhya.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)