25 years since Babri Masjid demolition: As final hearing commences in SC today, here's a brief history of the case

The Supreme Court has begun the final hearing in the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute from Tuesday. A specially constituted bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer will be hearing 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgement of the Allahabad High Court in four suits.

As the apex court begins the hearing a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the medieval-era structure, here is a brief summary of how the case progressed through the years.

The dispute

The main area of contention is a piece of land measuring 2.77 acres in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya, where the Babri Masjid was historically located. This site is also considered sacred among Hindus as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered deities of the religion. Muslims argue that the land houses the Babri Masjid, where they had been offering prayers for centuries before the dispute.

Protests after the mosque's demolition. Reuters

Protests after the mosque's demolition. Reuters

A disagreement over how the mosque came into place forms the core of the debate. While Hindus say that the mosque was built on top of a Ram temple – after demolishing or modifying it in the 16th Century, Muslims argue that the mosque is their sacred religious place — built by Mir Baqi in 1528 — and that Hindus desecrated it in 1949, when some people placed idols of Lord Ram inside the mosque.

The dispute over this piece of land has defined state politics and influenced debates throughout the country. Spanning across half a millennium, the issue predates empires — Mughal and British — and remains very alive even in modern India.

The demolition

On 6 December, 1992,  the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) organised a rally at the site involving over 1.5 lakh volunteers, known as kar sevaks. Soon, the rally turned violent, and the crowd overwhelmed security forces before demolishing the 16th Century Babri Masjid. This prompted communal riots across the country in which more than 2,000 people lost their lives.

Hindu kar sevaks clamour atop the 16th century Babri Mosque on 6 December, 1992. AFP

Hindu kar sevaks clamour atop the 16th Century Babri Mosque on 6 December, 1992. AFP

Among those present at the rally were senior figures in the BJP LK Advani, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi. In 2009, a report by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan found 68 people to be responsible for the demolition of the mosque, most of who were from the BJP. Among those named were Atal Vajpayee, Advani, Joshi and Vijay Raje Scindia.

The developments in the case

The Liberhan Commission was established by the government ten days after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and in its 2009 report, it said that then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh had posted bureaucrats and police officers to the city whose record suggested that they would not act during the mosque’s demolition.

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court stated that the "disputed land was Ram's birthplace", that the "mosque was built after the demolition of a temple" and that "it was not built in accordance with the tenets of Islam". It had ruled that the disputed land would be divided into three equal parts – Ram Lalla for the construction of the Ram temple, the Islamic Sunni Waqf Board and the remaining to Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu religious denomination.

Activists of the regional Samajbadi party burn effigies of Bharatia Janata Party leaders on 6 December, 2000. Reuters

Activists of the regional Samajbadi party burn effigies of Bharatia Janata Party leaders on 6 December, 2000. Reuters

In 2011, the Supreme Court stayed the judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court after the Sunni Central Wakf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara, the All-India Hindu Mahasabha and Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman filed appeals.

The unanimous appeal by all parties to return to status quo prompted Justice Alam to say, "At least on one issue, all of you are unanimous. The high court has granted a new relief, which nobody has asked for. The high court has done something on its own. It has to be stayed."

In March 2017, the Supreme Court has asked for 'an amicable, out-of-court settlement' in the dispute. A bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that they believed this "to be a better course of action than insisting on a judicial pronouncement."

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Updated Date: Dec 07, 2017 12:19:06 IST

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