The Ayodhya dispute is one of the most talked about and debated issue in the country. The main issue revolves around access to a site traditionally regarded among Hindus to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama, the history and location of the Babri Mosque at the site, and whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque. The Babri Masjid was then destroyed in the riots in Uttar Pradesh which took place on 6th December 1992.
Area of the disputed premises
The spot position is clear from the two maps prepared by Shiv Shankar Lal, Vakil in May 1950 under orders of Civil Judge, Faizabad passed in the Suit of Gopal Singh Visharad. The first map was of the premises in dispute and the second map was of the premises in dispute and the adjoining area. The map was on the scale of 1 inch = 10 ft. Muslim parties never objected to the dimensions given. The total area is approx. 1480 sq. yards, i.e., 13320 sq. ft. The area of the inner and the outer courtyard is virtually the same. The corners of the map are indicated by A, B, C, D, E, F. Two of the three judges have ordered for allotment of 1/3rd area to each of the three main Plaintiffs respectively, viz., Nirmohi Akhara, Muslims and Ramlala Virajman while the court has dismissed the suits of Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board.
The Government of India had acquired about 70 acres of land surrounding the disputed premises. This acquired land is other than the disputed area and is still in possession of GOI.
In the suit of Gopal Singh Visharad filed in 1950, a map prepared on 06th December, 1885 is attached as Annexure. In this map, Parikrama is mentioned very clearly. In this High Court judgment, this map is given as it is as Annexure. This Parikrama means that the whole area covered by Parikrama is the Janmasthan Temple.
TIMELINE OF THE DISPUTE
1853: The first recorded incident of violence over the holy site took place during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. Nirmohis, a Hindu sect, claimed that a Hindu temple had been destroyed during Babur’s times to build the mosque.
1859: A fence was built by the British administration to separate the places of worship, allowing the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.
1949: Idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the mosque, allegedly placed there by Hindus. Muslims protested against the act and both parties file civil suits. The government marked it as a disputed area and locked it up.
1984: A committee was formed lead by Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) to build a temple in Lord Rama’s honour. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani, headed the campaign.
1986: District judge ordered the gates of the disputed area to be opened in order to allow Hindus to worship there. Muslims set up the Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
1989: VHP laid the foundation of a Ram temple on land adjacent to the disputed mosque.
1990: VHP volunteers partially damaged the mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tried to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which failed the next year.
1991: BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya was located.
1992: Babri mosque was torn down by VHP supporters, the Shiv Sena party and BJP which resulted in riots leading to 2,000 deaths.
1998: BJP formed coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
2001: Tensions arose on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledged again to build Hindu temple at the site.Jan 2002: Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appointed a senior official, Shatrughna Singh, to negotiate with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
Feb 2002: BJP backed out from the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirmed deadline of 15 March to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converged on site. A train returning from Ayodhya carrying Hindu activists was attacked in Godhra and 58 people were killed.
Mar 2002: Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in riots in Gujarat following the train attack.
Apr 2002: Three High Court judges began hearings to decide who owned the religious site.
Jan 2003: Archaeologists began a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site.
Aug 2003: The survey said there was an evidence of a temple beneath the mosque, but Muslims disputed the findings. Mr. Vajpayee, at the funeral of Hindu activist Ramchandra Das Paramhans said that he will fulfill the dying man’s wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya. However, he hoped the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
Sept 2003: A court ruled that seven Hindu leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges were brought against Mr. Advani, who was then deputy prime minister, who was also at the site in 1992.
Oct 2004: Mr. Advani said his party still had commitment to build a temple at Ayodhya.
Nov 2004: Uttar Pradesh court ruled that an earlier order which exonerated Mr. Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.
July 2005: Suspected Islamic militants attacked the disputed site, using a jeep laden with explosives to blow a hole in the wall of the complex. Security forces killed five people they say are militants, and a sixth who was not immediately identified.
June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigated events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submitted its report – 17 years after it began its inquiry.
Nov 2009: There was uproar in parliament as the Liberhan commission’s report published and it blamed leading politicians from the Hindu nationalist BJP for a role in the mosque’s razing.
Sept 2010: Allahabad High Court ruled that the site should be divided, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder. Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, was given to Hindus. A lawyer for the Muslim community said he will appeal.
May 2011: Supreme Court suspended High Court ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appeal against the 2010 verdict.
December, 2014: Mohammad Farooq, the oldest litigant in the case, died. He was one of the seven main Muslim litigants in the 1949 Babri Masjid case.
February 26, 2016: The Supreme Court permitted BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to intervene in the pending matters related to the Ayodhya dispute with his plea seeking construction of Ram temple at the site of the demolished disputed structure.
The First Suit was instituted in January 1950 by Gopal Singh Visharad as Plaintiff against five Muslim residents of Ayodhya and the State of Uttar Pradesh and the Administrative Officers of Faizabad District as Defendants. In the years 1989 and 1990 respectively the Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara were added as Defendants. The plaintiff claimed in the plaint that he was worshipping the Janm Bhumi, idol of Bhagwan Sri Ramchadraji and Charanpaduka (foot impression). But on 14th January, 1950, when he went there for worship and Darshan the government employees prevented the petitioner from going inside where the idols of Ramchandraji and others were placed and that it was done on the undue insistence of local Muslim residents who are Defendants in the Suit. The relief claimed was that it be declared that the Plaintiff is entitled according to his religion and custom to worship and have Darshan of Bhagwan Sri Ram and others at the place of Janm Bhumi by going near the idols without any hindrance. So, the Government has no right to interfere in the said rights. Prohibitory injunction was also sought against Defendants that Defendants should not remove the idols of Bhagwan Ramchandra from the place where the idols were and they should also not close the way leading to that and should not interfere in worship and Darshan in any manner.
Interim injunction order was passed on 19th January, 1950 which confirmed on March 03, 1951. The appeal against the said order was dismissed by the High Court on 26th April, 1955.
The Second Suit was filed by Paramhans Ramchandra Das (Plaintiff) in the same year 1950 against five Muslim residents of Ayodhya and State of U.P. and a Government Officer. Sunni Waqf Board was added as Defendant in 1989. The Plaint was identical to the Suit of Gopal Singh Visharad. The Plaintiff Paramhans Ramchandra Das applied for withdrawal of his Suit in 1990 which was allowed on 18th September, 1990.
The Third Suit was filed by Nirmohi Akhara of Ramanand Sect through its Mahant as Plaintiff in the year 1959. The Defendants were Babu Priya Dutt Ram (Receiver of the disputed site appointed by the City Magistrate), State of U.P. and local officers and a few local Muslims. Later on in the year 1989, Sunni Central Board of Waqf was added as a Defendant. One Mr. Umesh Chandra Pandey was later on impleaded as Defendant in January, 1989 on his own application. The case of the Plaintiff Nirmohi Akhara was that for a long time in Ayodhya an ancient Mutt and Akhara of Ramanandi Bairagis called Nirmohis existed and the Janmasthan commonly known as Janm Bhumi, the birthplace of Ramachandra, belonged to it and the Akhara had always been managing and receiving offerings made there in the form of money, etc. It was also claimed that the Asthan of Janm Bhumi was of ancient antiquity. The Suit was confined to the inner courtyard and the constructed portion. The prayer in the Suit is that a decree be passed for the removal of Receiver from the management and charge of the said temple of Janm Bhumi and delivering the same to the Nirmohi Akhara through its Mahant.
The Fourth Suit was filed by the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs Uttar Pradesh and nine Muslims of Ayodhya as Plaintiffs in the year 1961. The Defendants in the Suit were Gopal Singh Visharad, Paramhans Ramchandra Das, Nirmohi Akhara, State of U.P., its officers, the Receiver, the President of All India Hindu Maha Sabha. About twelve additional Defendants were impleaded afterwards on their own applications some of whom were Sri Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, Baba Abhiram Das of Hanuman Garhi and Sri Madan Mohan Gupta (Convener of Akhil Bharatiya Sri Rama Janma Bhumi Punaruddhar Samiti, Bhopal, founded by HH Jagadguru
Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanandaji Maharaj – impleaded in 1989). The Plaintiff Sunni Central Waqf Board claimed that in Ayodhya there existed an ancient Mosque known as Babri Masjid built by Babur about 433 years ago after his conquest of India. That the land adjoining the mosque on all the four sides was ancient graveyard of Muslims; That the mosque and the graveyard vested in Almighty and the Muslims were offering prayers in the mosque since the time of its construction. The mosque and graveyard were situated in Mohalla Kot Ram Chander in Ayodhya. The relief claimed by the Plaintiff is that the property be declared as a public mosque commonly known as Babri Masjid. Next prayer is that in case in the opinion of the Court delivery of possession is deemed to be the proper remedy, a decree for delivery of the possession of the mosque by removal of idols, etc., be passed in favour of plaintiff against the defendants. One more prayer was added in the year 1995 that the Receiver be ordered to handover the property in dispute to the plaintiffs. At the same time, in the year 1995, Sunni Waqf Board withdrew its prayer of graveyard.
All the above four suits were consolidated for joint hearing by the orders of the Court in the year 1964.
The Fifth Suit was filed in 1989 by Bhagwan Sri Ramlala Virajman at Sri Rama Janma Bhumi Ayodhya, as Plaintiff No. 1 and Asthan Sri Rama Janma Bhumi Ayodhya as Plaintiff No.
- Both the plaintiffs were stated to be represented by Sri Deoki Nandan Agrawal (Retired Judge of High Court, resident of Allahabad) as Next Friend of Ramlala Virajman. Sri Deoki Nandan Agrawal was the Plaintiff No. 3 in the Suit. The Defendants in this Suit are Rajendra Singh, s/o Gopal Singh Visharad, Paramhans Mahant Ramchandra Das, Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Central Board of Waqf and a few Muslims. In total there are 27 Defendants in this Suit including all the parties of previous four suits. Sri Rama Janma Bhumi Nyas and Shia Central Board of Waqf are also Defendants in this Suit.
It was pleaded in the suit that Sri Ramlala Virajman and Asthan Sri Rama Janma Bhumi both were juridical persons and Deoki Nandan Agrawal is a Vaishnav Hindu seeks to represent the Deity and Asthan as a Next Friend. Sri Ram Janma Bhumi is too well known at Ayodhya and it does not require any description for purpose of identification of the subject matter of dispute.
Twenty-five years have passed since framing of these issues but hearing has not commenced. So the Plaintiff Deities and their devotees are extremely unhappy with the prolonged delay of the hearing of the suits. Plaintiff deities are desirous of having a new temple constructed. A Trust has been created in December, 1985 by HH Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Shivaramacharya Maharaj. It was also pleaded that earlier suits were inadequate as neither presiding deity nor Asthan Janma Bhumi were pleaded in earlier suits. Hence fresh suit is being filed. It was also pleaded that place itself being birthplace of Lord Ram is object of worship as deity.
The Prayer in the suit is for a decree of declaration to the effect that the entire premises of Sri Ram Janma Bhumi belong to the plaintiff deities and for a perpetual injunction against the defendants prohibiting them from interfering with or raising any objection to or placing any obstruction in the construction of the new temple building at Sri Rama Janma Bhumi Ayodhya after demolishing and removing the existing buildings and structures.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO
Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, the then Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar advised peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably. Also a Supreme Court’s Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing of the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
The Supreme Court indicated that 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 L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to Lucknow, where a CBI court is hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
The Supreme Court also revived conspiracy charges against L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition cases. L.K. Advani Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar charged with criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Now the Supreme Court has scheduled the 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.
Published by Shruti Singh, Legal Intern at Legal Desire