Ayodhya dispute

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Ayodhya dispute
Archaeology of Ayodhya
Babri Masjid
Demolition of the Babri Masjid
Ram Janmabhoomi
2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack
Organizations
Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha
Bharatiya Janata Party
Liberhan Commission
Nirmohi Akhara
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Sunni Waqf Board
Vishva Hindu Parishad
People
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Babur
L. K. Advani
Kalyan Singh
Murli Manohar Joshi
Uma Bharti

The Ayodhya dispute (Hindi: अयोध्या विवाद 'Ayōdhyā Vivād' , Urdu: مسئلۂ ایودھیا'Masʾala-ē Ayōdhyā' ) is a political, historical and socio-religious debate in India, centred on a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, located in Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh. The main issues revolve 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 Mosque was destroyed by hardline Hindu activists during a political rally which turned into a riot on 6 December 1992. A subsequent land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court, the verdict of which was pronounced on 30 September 2010. In the landmark hearing, the three judges of The Allahabad High Court ruled that the 2.77 acres (1.12 ha) of Ayodhya land be divided into 3 parts, with 1/3 going to the Ram Lalla or Infant Lord Rama represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha for the construction of the Ram temple, 1/3 going to the Islamic Sunni Waqf Board and the remaining 1/3 going to a Hindu religious denomination Nirmohi Akhara. While the three-judge bench was not unanimous that the disputed structure was constructed after demolition of a temple, it did agree that a temple or a temple structure predated the mosque at the same site.[1] The excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India were heavily used as evidence by the court that the predating structure was a massive Hindu religious building.[2]


Religious background[edit]

Ram Janmabhoomi[edit]

Main article: Ram Janmabhoomi

The Ayodhya debate centres around the land known today as Ram Janmabhoomi, on which the Babri Mosque was built in 1528. In Hindu mythology, Ayodhya is the birthplace of the god-king Rama, the son of Dasharatha, the ruler of Ayodhya, and his queen Kausalya. He is worshiped by many Hindus as an Avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu.

According to the Garuda Purana, a Hindu religious text, Ayodhya is one of seven sacred sites where Moksha, or a final release from the cycle of death and rebirth, may be obtained. The others are Mathura, Māyā, Kāsi, Kāñchī, Avantikā and Dvārāvatī.[3]

History of the Babri Mosque[edit]

Main article: Babri Mosque

When the Mughal invader Babur came down from Kabul in 1525, he first defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the first battle of Panipat and then the Rajput King of Chittorgarh, Rana Sangram Singh at Khanwa, making pioneering use of cannon and light cavalry. After these triumphs, Babar took over a substantial part of northern India.

One of his generals, Mir Baqi came to Ayodhya in 1528 and after reportedly destroying[4] a pre-existing temple of Rama at the site, built the "Janmasthan", i. e., "Birthplace" Mosque.[5] Mir Baki, after building the mosque, named it Babri Masjid.[6] The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims.[7]

The first recorded instances of religious violence at the site occurred in the 1850s. Soon after, in 1859, the British colonial administration extended access to a portion of the outer courtyard of the Masjid to Hindus who wished to worship there.[8] This state of affairs persisted until 1949, when activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) desecrated the mosque by placing idols of Rama inside.[9] The VHP then claimed that the idol had "miraculously appeared within the mosque.[10] This resulted in an uproar, and both the Sunni Wakf Board and the VHP filed civil suits staking their respective claims to the site. The land was declared to be under dispute, and the gates of the Masjid were locked.[8]

Demolition of the Babri Mosque[edit]

In the 1980s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP party) launched a new movement to "reclaim" the site for Hindus and to erect a temple dedicated to the infant Rama (Ramlala) at this spot. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), formed in 1980 from the remnants of the Jana Sangh, became the political face of the campaign. In 1986 a district judge ruled that the gates would be reopened and Hindus permitted to worship inside, providing a major boost to the movement.[8] In September 1990, BJP leader L. K. Advani began a "rath yatra" to Ayodhya in order to generate support for the movement. The yatra resulted communal riots in many cities it passed through, prompting the government of Bihar to arrest Advani. In spite of this, a large number of 'kar sevaks' or Sangh Parivar activists reached Ayodhya, and tried to attack the mosque. They were stopped by the police and the paramilitary forces, resulting in a pitched battle in which several kar sevaks were killed. Accusing the central government of V.P Singh of being weak, the BJP withdrew its support, necessitating fresh elections. In these elections, the BJP won a majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, and also increased its share in the Lok Sabha.[11]

On 6 December 1992, the VHP and its associates, including the BJP, organised a rally involving 150,000 VHP and BJP kar sevaks at the site of the mosque. The ceremonies included speeches by BJP leaders such as Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.[12] The mob grew restive through the duration of the speeches, and stormed the mosque shortly after noon. A police cordon placed there to protect the mosque was heavily outnumbered. The mosque was attacked with a number of improvised tools, and brought to the ground in a few hours.[13][14] This occurred despite a commitment from the state government to the Indian Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.[15][16] More than 2000 people were killed in the riots following the demolition.[17][18] Riots broke out in many major Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.[19]

On 16 December 1992, the Liberhan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque.[20] It was the longest running commission in India's history with several extensions granted by various governments. The report found a number of people to be culpable in the demolition, including BJP leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, Pramod Mahajan, Uma Bharti and Vijayraje Scindia, as well as VHP leaders like Giriraj Kishore and Ashok Singhal. Other prominent political leaders indicted by the commission include late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, and former RSS leader K Govindacharya. Relying on the testimonies of several eyewitnesses, the report stated that many of these leaders had made provocative speeches at the rally that provoked the demolition. It also stated that they could have stopped the demolition, if they had so wished.[21]

Many Muslim organisations have continued to express outrage at the destruction of the disputed structure. In July 2005, terrorists attacked the makeshift temple at the site of the destroyed mosque. In 2007, M. N. Gopal Das, the then head of the Ram temple, received phone calls making threats against his life.[22] Many terror attacks by banned jihadi outfits like IM cited demolition of Babri Mosque as an excuse for terrorist attacks.[23][24][25][26]

Early historical surveys[edit]

In 1767, Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler recorded Hindus worshiping and celebrating Ramanavami at the site of the mosque. In 1788, Tieffenthaler's French works were published in Paris, the first to suggest that the Babri Mosque was on the birthplace of Rama,[27] saying that "Emperor Aurangzeb got demolished the fortress called Ramkot, and erected on the same place a Mahometan temple with three cuppolas" reclaimed by Hindus through numerous wars after death of Aurangzeb in 1707 A.D like they earlier fortified it during Jahangir's rule as Ramkot.

During the 19th century, the Hindus in Ayodhya were recorded as continuing a tradition of worshiping Rama on the Ramkot hill. According to British sources, Hindus and Muslims from the Faizabad area worshiped together in the Babri Mosque complex in the 19th century until about 1855. P. Carnegy wrote in 1870:

It is said that up to that time, the Hindus and Mohamedans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since the British rule a railing has been put up to prevent dispute, within which, in the mosque the Mohamedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings.

[28]

This platform was outside the disputed structure but within its precincts.

In 1858, the Muazzin of the Babri Mosque said in a petition to the British government that the courtyard had been used by Hindus for hundreds of years.[29]

The British recognized the religious and political tension between the Muslims and Hindus. An early census, taken in 1869, found the Hindu people to comprise 66.4 percent of the total population in Ayodhya, and a little over 60 percent in nearby Faizabad. The British contended that the Ayodhya area was primarily Hindu, not in regards to this census, but to the chief spiritual significance for the birthplace of Rama.[30]

Mahant Ram case[edit]

In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Ram moved the courts for permission to erect a temple just outside the Babri Mosque premises. Despite validating the claim of the petitioner, the Faizabad District Judge dismissed the case, citing the passage of time.[31] On 18 March 1886, the judge passed an order in which he wrote:[32]

I visited the land in dispute yesterday in the presence of all parties. I found that the Masjid built by Emperor Babur stands on the border of Ayodhya, that is to say, to the west and south it is clear of habitations. It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances. (Court verdict by Col. F.E.A. Chamier, District Judge, Faizabad (1886)

Post-independence[edit]

Several later mosques were built in Faizabad district, in which the pilgrim city of Ayodhya falls. Ayodhya itself has a small Muslim population, though there are substantial numbers of Muslims 7 km away at District Headquarters – Faizabad. Since 1948, by Indian Government order, Muslims were not permitted to be closer than 200 yards away to the site; the main gate remained locked, though Hindu pilgrims were allowed to enter through a side door. The 1989 Allahabad High Court ordered the opening of the main gate and restored the site in full to the Hindus. Hindu groups later requested modifications to the Babri Mosque, and drew up plans for a new grand Temple with Government permissions; riots between Hindu and Muslim groups took place as a result. Since, then the matter is sub-judice and this political, historical and socio-religious debate over the history and location of the Babri Mosque, is known as the Ayodhya dispute.

Excavations[edit]

Archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1970, 1992 and 2003 in and around the disputed site have clearly found the evidence indicating that a large Hindu complex existed on the site.[33] In 2003, by the order of an Indian Court, The Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble indicated definite proof of a temple under the mosque.[34] However, it could not be ascertained if it was a Rama temple as remnant had more resemblance to a Shiva temple.[34] In the words of ASI researchers, they discovered "distinctive features associated with... temples of north India". The excavations yielded:

"stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of a divine couple and carved architectural features, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broke octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure"

[35]

Jonathan Walters remarks: "The impact of the 2003 discovery of Buddhist ruins underlying both Hindu and Muslim layers at Ayodhya remains to be seen."[36] Before the archaeological opinion was published, there were some differing viewpoints. In his Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, written prior to the ASI researches, Professor Ram Sharan Sharma writes, "Ayodhya seems to have emerged as a place of religious pilgrimage in medieval times. Although chapter 85 of the Vishnu Smriti lists as many as fifty-two places of pilgrimage, including towns, lakes, rivers, mountains, etc., it does not include Ayodhya in this list.[37] Sharma also notes that Tulsidas, who wrote the Ramcharitmanas in 1574 at Ayodhya, does not mention it as a place of pilgrimage. This suggests that there was no significant Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Mosque., or that it had ceased to be one, after the mosque was built. After the demolition of the mosque in 1992, Professor Ram Sharan Sharma along with historians Suraj Bhan, M.Athar Ali and Dwijendra Narayan Jha wrote the Historian's report to the nation saying that the assumption that there was a temple at the disputed site was mistaken, and that there was no valid reason to destroy the mosque.[38] The 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement came down heavily on these "eminent" historians, with one of the judges remarking that he was "surprised to see in the zeal of helping… the parties in whose favour they were appearing, these witnesses went ahead… and wrote a totally new story".[39]

Title cases[edit]

In 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed a title suit with the Allahabad High Court seeking injunction to offer 'puja' (worship) at the disputed site. A similar suit was filed shortly after but later withdrawn by Paramhans Das of Ayodhya.Das, Anil (28 September 2010). "Chronolgy of Ayodhya's Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit issue". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 1 October 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.  In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu religious institution,[40] filed a third title suit seeking direction to hand over the charge of the disputed site, claiming to be its custodian. A fourth suit was filed by the Muslim Central Board of Wakf for declaration and possession of the site. The Allahabad high court bench began hearing the case in 2002, which was completed in 2010. However, the bench withheld its verdict till 24 September. After the Supreme Court dismissed a plea to defer the high court verdict, the high court set 30 September 2010 as the final date for pronouncing the judgement.[41]

On 30 September 2010, the High Court of Allahabad, the three-member bench comprising justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma, ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts. The site of the Ramlala idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the installed Infant Ram deity), Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Wakf Board to get the rest. The court also ruled that status quo was to be maintained for three months.[42][43]

Reacting to the verdict, all the three parties, including the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf board announced that they will appeal against the division of disputed land among three parties in the Supreme Court of India.[44] All the three parties, however, conceded that this judgment was an important step forward, towards resolution of a long pending dispute.

Hindu Nationalism[edit]

The Ayodhya debate has grown along with a revival of Hindu Nationalism.

The issue of the disputed structure had remained inactive for four decades, until the mid-1980s.[45] The Hindu Nationalist movement pressed for reclamation of three of its most holy sites which it claimed had suffered at the hands of Islam, at Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi. L K Advani, the leader of the BJP in his memoirs argued, "If Muslims are entitled to an Islamic atmosphere in Mecca, and if Christians are entitled to a Christian atmosphere in the Vatican, why is it wrong for the Hindus to expect a Hindu atmosphere in Ayodhya?"

The legal case continues regarding the title deed of the land tract which is a government controlled property.[46] While the Muslim parties want the Babri Mosque to be reconstructed through a court order, the Hindu side wants a law in parliament to have a temple constructed,[47] saying faith in the existence of Ram Janmabhoomi cannot be decided in a court of law.

Timeline[edit]

Year Date Event[48][49]
1527 During the reign of Babur, the first mughal emperor, some have claimed an old Hindu temple was demolished and a mosque constructed at the same place in Ayodhya and named after Babur. ('Fact' proved by archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1970, 1992 and 2003 in and around the disputed site — disputed by others).
1853 The first recorded communal clashes over the site date to this year.
1859 The colonial British administration put a fence around the site, denominating separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims. That is how it stood for about 90 years.
1949 In December of that year, idols were put inside the mosque. As told by lawyer of Ramlalla, the idol wasn't placed by anyone but is accepted by Hindus to have appeared. Both sides to the dispute filed civil suits. The government locked the gates, saying the matter was sub judice and declared the area “disputed”. The civil suits were filed for ownership of the Plot no 583 of the area.
1961 Case filed in Indian courts against forceful occupation of the Babri Mosque and placing of idols within it.
1984 The movement to build a temple at the site, which Hindus claimed was the birthplace of Lord Ram, gathered momentum when Hindu groups formed a committee to spearhead the construction of a temple at the Ramjanmabhoomi site.
1986 A district judge ordered the gates of the mosque to be opened after almost five decades and allowed Hindus to worship inside the “disputed structure.” A Babri Mosque Action Committee was formed as Muslims protested the move to allow Hindu prayers at the site. The gates were opened in less than an hour after the court decision. The process was publicized on TV, considered as a method of the Central Government to appease Hindus (since after the decision of the government in Shah Bano case, the government wanted to shed their Muslim-friendly image).
1989 The clamour for building a Ram temple was growing. In February, VHP proclaimed that a Shila or a stone will be established for construction of temple near the area. In November, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad laid foundations of a temple on land adjacent to the "disputed structure" in presence of Home Minister Sh Boota Singh and then Chief Minister Sh ND Tiwari. There were sporadic clashes in the country such as Bhagalpur in Bihar. Rajiv Gandhi took 'Soft Hindutva' in the upcoming elections.
1990 Sh V P Singh became the Prime Minister of India with support of BJP which had won 58 seats in the election, a massive improvement from its last tally of 2 seats. The then BJP president Lal Krishna Advani took out a cross-country rathyatra to garner support for the move to build a Ram temple at the site. On 23 October was arrested in Bihar during the yatra, following which BJP took back its support to the government. Sh Chandrashekhar became the Prime Minister of India with support of the congress. On October 30, many were gunned down by the police on orders of the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, when they gathered in Ayodhya as participants of the Rath-Yatra; their bodies were thrown in the river Saryu.[50][51][52][53]
1991 Congress came to power at center after elections in 1991, while BJP became major opposition party in center and came to power in many states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Kalyan Singh became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. State government acquired 2.77 acre land in the area and gave it on lease to RamJanmBhoomi Nyas Trust. The Allahbad High Court stopped any permanent construction activity in the area. Kalyan Singh publicly supported the movement while Central Government took no action to curb the increasing tensions. In spite of the High Court judgement, disputed area was leveled.
1992 Kalyan Singh took steps to support the movement such as making entry into area easier, promising no firing on Karsevaks, opposing decision of central government to send Central Police force in the area, etc. In July, several thousand Karsevaks assembled in the area and the work for maintenance of temple started. This activity was stopped after intervention of the prime minister. Meetings started between Babri Masjid Action Committee and VHP leaders in presence of the home minister. On 30 October, Dharam Sansad of VHP proclaimed in Delhi that the talks have failed and Karseva will presume from 6 December. Central Government was considering the deployment of central police forces in the area and dissolution of state government but in the end decided against it. The case was being heard in the Supreme Court which told that State Government is responsible for ensuring law and order in the area. The government was discussing it in Cabinet Committee meeting and Rashtriya Ekta Parishad. BJP boycotted the Parishad. The Allahbad High Court was hearing the matter of legality of structure of foundation laid in 1989.
1992 6 December The Babri Mosque was demolished by a gathering of near 200,000 Karsevaks. Communal riots across India followed.
1992 16 December Ten days after the demolition, the Congress government at the Centre, headed by PV Narasimha Rao, set up a commission of inquiry under Justice Liberhan.
1993 Three months after being constituted, the Liberhan Commission began investigations into who and what led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque.
2001 Tensions rose on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque as the VHP reaffirmed its resolve to build a temple at the site.
2002 27 February At least 58 people were killed in Godhra, Gujarat, in an attack on a train believed to be carrying Hindu volunteers from Ayodhya. Riots followed in the state and over 2000 people were unofficially reported to have died in these.
2003 The court ordered a survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site. In August, the survey presented evidence of a temple under the mosque. Muslim groups disputed the findings.
2003 September A court ruled that seven Hindu leaders, including some prominent BJP leaders, should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque.
2004 November An Uttar Pradesh court ruled that an earlier order which exonerated LK Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.
2007 The Supreme Court refused to admit a review petition on the Ayodhya dispute.
2009 The Liberhan Commission, which was instituted ten days after the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992, submitted its report on 30 June — almost 17 years after it began its inquiry. Its contents were not made public.
2010 30 September The Allahabad High Court pronounces its verdict on four title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute on 30 September 2010. Ayodhya land to be divided into three parts. 1/3 goes to Ram Lalla represented by Hindu Maha Sabha, 1/3 to Sunni Wakf Board, 1/3 goes to Nirmohi Akhara.[54]
2010 December The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and Sunni Waqf Board moved to the Supreme Court of India, challenging part of the Allahabad High Court’s verdict.[55][56]
2011 9 May Supreme Court of India stayed the high court order splitting the disputed site in three parts and said that status quo will remain. The two judge bench of Supreme Court remarked that the HC verdict was surprising as no party wanted a split of the site.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Ratnagar, Shereen (2004). "Archaeology at the Heart of a Political Confrontation: The Case of Ayodhya". Current Anthropology. 45(2). pp. 239–259. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]