• The Spectre of Babri Masjid

    Daniya Rahman

    December 6, 2018

    Image Courtesy: The Wire

    December 06, 1992 marked one of the darkest days in the history of India as the 16th century Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished by karsevaks and other Hindu extremist groups. This event showed the world, the impact of communal polarisation as the demolition led to communal riots in many parts of the country and thousands lost their lives. Stemming from a dispute over the Ramjanmbhumi in Ayodhya where Hindu groups believe that a temple marking Lord Ram’s birthplace had been razed to build the Babri Masjid in 1528, the history of the events leading to the demolition of the mosque and its aftermath is a complicated one. Following is an attempt to chronologically present the events that have unfolded since the construction of the mosque:

    1528

    Babri Masjid is built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur.

    1857

    A “chabutra” or platform was constructed in an area situated on the outer enclosure of Babri masjid.

    1885

    Mahant Raghubar Das, the chief priest of Ramjanmsthan filed several suits seeking permission to build a temple on the chabutra. The pleas were rejected and orders to maintain status quo passed. Subsequently, however, a railing was built to separate the chabutra from the masjid.

    1934

    After a cow was allegedly slaughtered by Muslims in Ayodhya, the Hindus damaged the mosque but it was repaired by the funds collected through the fine imposed on Hindu rioters.

    1949

    Some Hindus allegedly kept the statues of Ram, Sita and Laxman during the night of 22-23 December inside the mosque, leading to a communal confrontation. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru ordered Govind Ballabh Pant, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to remove the statues. However, K K Nayar, the DM refused to remove the idols. The court decided to maintain status quo and the gates of the disputed place were locked.

    1950

    In January, Gopal Singh Vishared, a Sanatan Hindu and an inhabitant of the Ayodhya city filed a suit in the Civil court urging entitlement of worship and unobstructed visit to idols and sought a perpetual injuction, restraining the defendants from removing the idols. On February 19, Civil judge V N Chadha granted a temporary injunction.

    Along with Vishared’s suit, three more suits were filed by other parties regarding receivership and waqfs of site.

    1959

    Nirmohi Akhara also filed a suit for ownership of the disputed land.

    1961

    The Sunni Waqf Board filed another suit in the court of civil judge Faizabad, seeking help from the court in declaring a portion of area as a public mosque known as Babri masjid and the area beyond as the graveyard for Muslim public.

    1984

    VHP forms a committee to lead a movement for the construction of Ram temple with L K Advani spearheading the movement.

    1986

    Advocate Umesh Chandra Pandey submitted a new application within the case filed by Gopal Singh Vishared demanding the locks to be opened and the Hindus to be allowed to worship the idols even though all claimants of the case had died, and the case was barred according to law.

    1989

    On May 12, the Sunni Waqf Board put a petition against the order of the district judge to open the locks.

    On August 14, the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court issued an interim direction to maintain status quo regarding the disputed property.

    On November 09, the foundation stone of a Mandir was laid on plot no. 586 of the property, claimed by Sunni Waqf Board as having been used as a Muslim burial ground for a long time.

    1990

    BJP leader L K Advani begins a Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to gather support for the Ram temple. However, Lalu Prasad Yadav arrests him at Samastipur, Bihar.

    1992

    On December 06, despite the legal situation and the order of maintaining status quo, Babri masjid was demolished.

    Two FIRs are filed in the case. One against the unknown Karsevaks for demolition of the mosque and the other naming BJP leaders L K Advani, M M Joshi and others for allegedly giving “communal” speeches before the demolition.

    1993

    In April, the Acquisition of Certain Area of Ayodhya Act is passed for acquisition of land by Centre in the disputed area.

    In the same month, various writ petitions, including the one by Ismail Faruqui, are filed at the Allahabad High Court, challenging various aspects of the act.

    In October, CBI files composite chargesheet accusing Advani and others of conspiracy.

    1994

    On October 24, the Supreme Court restricted construction of any kind on the 67acres of land and announced to maintain status quo until further orders. In the Ismail Faruqui case, the Supreme Court verdict says that a mosque is not integral to Islam.

    2001

    Special CBI court drops proceedings against accused including L K Advani, M M Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray and others.

    2004

    CBI challenges the dropping of proceedings against BJP leaders on technical grounds before the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court and the court issues notices.

    2009

    The Liberhan Commision, constituted soon after the demolition, submits its report with the key finding that the demolition was planned and several BJP leaders, including Advani, played a role.

    2010

    In May, Allahabad High Court dismisses CBI’s plea saying no merit in CBI’s revision petition.

    On September 30, the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court delivers a decision declaring that the disputed land will be divided in three parts. The portion below the central dome where the idols are kept was given to Ramlalla; the land including the Ram chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi was allotted to the Nirmohi Akhara; and the remaining one third was given to the Sunni Waqf Board.

    2011

    On May 09, The Supreme Court puts a stay on the Allahabad High Court judgement while allowing one priest to continue to worship in the makeshift temple built at the site after Hindu and Muslim groups appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s ruling.

    2016

    On February 26, Subramaniam Swamy files plea in Supreme Court seeking construction of Ram temple at the disputed site.

    2017

    In April, the Supreme Court restores criminal conspiracy charge against BJP leaders.

    In May, Special CBI court grants bail to all accused including the BJP leaders.

    On August 07, a three member bench orders that the final arguments in the case should begin from 05 December.

    On December 01, several Civil Rights activists file plea challenging the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court by which the disputed land was divided into three parts.

    On December 05, the Supreme Court postponed the hearing to February 08, next year.

    2018

    In the hearing of February 08, Supreme Court says Ayodhya case “pure land dispute” and announces next hearing on March 14.
    On March 14, Supreme Court rejects all interim pleas, including the one by Subramaniam Swamy, seeking to intervene as parties in the case.

    In July, the Yogi Adityanath led UP government tells Supreme Court that some Muslim groups were trying to delay the hearing by seeking reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.

    In September, the Supreme Court declines to refer its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam to a five-judge constitution bench.

    On October 29, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing for the Ayodhya title suit case to January 2019.

    In November, Shiv Sena chief Udhav Thackeray visits Ayodhya and vows to come back if the temple is not built at the earliest.

    In the same month, VHP organises “Hunkar Rally” in Ayodhya to drum up support for the construction of Ram Temple.

    Image Courtesy: PTI

    Today, on the 26th anniverary of the demolition of Babri masjid, mere days after the Vishva Hindu Parishad organised a "Dharam Sabha" in Ayodhya to seek support for construction of a grand Ram temple, the right-wing outfit is observing "Shaurya Diwas" (day of bravery) and "Vijay Diwas" (day of victory), to be followed by Gita Jayanti celebrations on 18 December. While the Muslim outfits have said they will observe "Yaum-e-Gham" (day of sorrow) and "Yaum-e-Syah" (black day). 

    Image Courtesy: ANI News

    In the wake of these events, a tight vigil is being kept and the city of Ayodhya has turned into a fortress with over 2,500 police personnel deployed and preventive arrests made to thwart protests at the disputed site. This sight, however, is not very pleasant for the residents of Ayodhya who, even after 26 years of the demolition, are still struggling with the trauma of 1992. Years ago, L K Advani's Rath Yatra brought mass death and destruction in Ayodhya; today, witnessing the Hindu Supremacists rallying in their city again, the horror has returned. Many muslim families have locked their houses and left. The spectre of Babri masjid still haunts the residents of Ayodhya who are in as much fear today, as they were all those years ago. And with a prominenent BJP leader like Amit Shah saying, "Ismein ek inch bhi waapis aane ka sawaal nahi hai (There's no chance that we will back off by even an inch)", asserting that the BJP is commited to building the temple at the exact spot where Ram Lalla resided, the fear seems only too real.

    The Hindu Supremacist forces responsible for the demolition are now in power at the centre but the nature of violence that they employ is not the same. While we may not have seen the demolition of religious sites, the country has witnessed violence and destruction arising out of communal politics and the deaths of Akhlaq, Junaid and innumerable others are testimonies of the same.

    Commenting upon the Babri masjid demolition, former Prime Minister V P Singh had said, "They were not three domes of the mosque, they were the three pillars of the state of India: Legislature, Judiciary, and Executive." With the fall of the mosque, these three pillars had indeed fallen. Perhaps that is why, even after 26 years, the dispute over the area is still on and a verdict on what can be built or not is still awaited from the Supreme Court.

    With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site of Ayodhya is crucial for BJP which runs on a faith-based politics of majoritarianism. Currently, the Ramjanmbhoomi/Babri masjid title suit is pending in the apex court, which will decide the schedule of hearing in January.


    Read More:
    A Memory Buried Under the Debris of Babri Masjid
    Why we need to remember the Babri Masjid demolition
    The Fallout of the Planned Demolition of Babri Masjid: Analysing the Violence in 1992-93​

    Daniya Rahman is a member of the editorial collective of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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