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What is the Babri Masjid case all about?

LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH, 06/12/2015: INDEX-RAM JANAMBHUMI -AYODHYA: Scene at Shri Ram Janam Bhumi Trust workshop in Ayodhya.  Stone carving on pillers, slabs and bricks have been done at this workshop for possible temple at Babri Masjid-Ram Janam Bhumi site.  23 years ago on December 6, 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks ("volunteers") consists of VHP, Bajarag Dal  and Shiv Sena activists, entirely demolished the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya, in an attempt to reclaim the land known as Ram Janmabhoomi (the mythological birthplace of the Hindu god Rama). The demolition occurred after a rally supporting the movement turned violent and resulted in several months of intercommunal rioting between India's Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people.. Photo  Rajeev Bhatt

LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH, 06/12/2015: INDEX-RAM JANAMBHUMI -AYODHYA: Scene at Shri Ram Janam Bhumi Trust workshop in Ayodhya. Stone carving on pillers, slabs and bricks have been done at this workshop for possible temple at Babri Masjid-Ram Janam Bhumi site. 23 years ago on December 6, 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks ("volunteers") consists of VHP, Bajarag Dal and Shiv Sena activists, entirely demolished the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya, in an attempt to reclaim the land known as Ram Janmabhoomi (the mythological birthplace of the Hindu god Rama). The demolition occurred after a rally supporting the movement turned violent and resulted in several months of intercommunal rioting between India's Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people.. Photo Rajeev Bhatt

What is it?

At the core of the nearly 70-year-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is the belief that Lord Ram was born 9,00,000 years ago in the Treta Yuga, in a room located under what was the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The masjid was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur in the 16th century and occupied 1,482.5 square yards before its demolition by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.

On September 30, 2010, a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court upheld the Hindu belief, reasoning that the “world knows” where Ram’s birthplace is. It ordered a partition of the site occupied by the Babri Masjid equally among the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, the deity.

In May 2011, on appeals by the Sunni Waqf Board and other parties, the Supreme Court stayed the judgment, calling it a “leap of faith.” The stay ensured status quo, which meant that a lone priest would continue to worship in the makeshift temple built at the site — a custom legitimised in the Ayodhya Act of 1993. The ban continued on any mode of activity on the 67 acres acquired by the Centre following the Supreme Court orders of March 13 and 14, 2002.

The Supreme Court on December 5, 2017 fixed February 8, 2018 as the date for hearing the civil appeals in the title dispute. It commenced the final hearing in the dispute on that date, a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the medieval-era structure.

The case banks mostly on documents written in languages as varied as Persian and Arabic, dating back to the 16th century.

How did it come about?

The idols of Ram Lalla were placed “surreptitiously” under the central dome of the Babri Masjid in 1949. The next year, Gopal Simla Visharad filed the first suit in the Faizabad civil court for rights to perform puja to Ram Lalla. Paramahansa Ramachandra Das filed a suit for continuation of puja and keeping idols in the structure.

In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed a third suit, seeking a direction to hand over charge of the disputed site. The U.P. Sunni Central Wakf Board filed the fourth suit in 1961 for declaration and possession and a fifth was filed in 1989 in the name of Ram Lalla Virajman for declaration and possession.

In 1986, the district court ordered the removal of locks and opening of the site for Hindu worshippers. In 1991, the Uttar Pradesh government acquired land around the structure for the convenience of devotees coming for Ram Lalla darshan. In 1993, the Centre took over 67 acres around the area and sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on whether there existed a Hindu place of worship before the structure was built. In 1994, the litigation reached the Lucknow Bench. The suits were heard from 1996 till September 2010.

 

Why does it matter?

The Supreme Court’s decision will be a deciding factor in the backdrop of the movement for building a Ram temple at the disputed site gaining momentum. The Ram temple was a major promise in the BJP manifesto. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in April 2017, decided to revive the criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, in the Babri Masjid demolition cases.

What next?

Just days before the commencement of the final hearing in the dispute in the Supreme Court, U.P. Central Shia Waqf Board chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi informed the court about a settlement reached between the Board and “non-Muslim stakeholders” for building a Ram temple at the disputed site. The Board said it would bear the expenses and construct a mosque in Lucknow. Rizvi has earlier claimed the Babri Masjid was a Shia waqf (endowment), and termed the Sunnis, who had been at the frontline of the title dispute, as “hardliners.”

The so-called settlement may face resistance from the Sunni faction in court. Though the Supreme Court has leaned in favour of an out-of-court settlement, this Sunni-Shia rift may compel it to adjudicate the dispute.

 


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