The 69-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case will finally come to an end on Saturday with the verdict set to be delivered at 10.30 AM. Outgoing Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and four other judges – next CJI designate S A Bobde, Justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer – are in the constitution bench which was hearing the case.
A general advisory had been sent to all states and Union territories asking them to deploy adequate security personnel in all sensitive places and to ensure that no untoward incident takes place anywhere in the country.
In Uttar Pradesh, all schools, colleges, educational institutions and training centres shall be closed from Saturday (9/11/2019) to Monday (11/11/19).
Ayodhya town, the ground zero of the controversy, has turned into a sea of khaki as security measures have been stepped up there along with many other towns and cities across Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, political leaders cutting across party lines have appealed for maintaining harmony.
With all that done, onto the dispute.
What is the Ayodhya dispute?
Hindu mythology says Lord Ram was born on the bank of Sarayu river in Ayodhya, identified with Ayodhya town of Faizabad district of present-day Uttar Pradesh. To mark Lord Ram’s birthplace, as per Hindu beliefs, a temple was constructed there in the ancient era. There are claims that Mughal emperor Babur razed this temple in 1528 and built his mosque over it. This very mosque, called ‘Babri Masjid’, was dismantled by karsevaks on December 6, 1992. The 2.77 acres of land where the mosque stood is at the centre of the dispute.
Who are the litigants in the case?
There are three key parties — The Nirmohi Akhara (manager of shrine), the UP Sunni Wakf Board (administrators of all wakfs) and Ram Lalla, the deity. Ram Lalla entered the litigation in 1980 through Deoki Nandan Agarwal, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court and a ‘committed’ devotee of Lord Ram. Later, All India Hindu Mahasabha and individuals such as Iqbal Ansari joined the litigation after they sided either with the Hindu or the Muslim parties.
When did the case come before the judiciary? What happened in the courts?
In 1822, an official working in the Faizabad court filed a case claiming that a temple was existing underneath the mosque. The case was dismissed by the court.
In December 1949, Hindu activists entered the mosque and placed idols of Lord Ram. The mosque was later seized by the government to quell communal tensions. The court ordered people not to remove the idols. It also stopped the structure from being used as a mosque. In the following years, both Hindu and Muslim groups filed claims over the disputed structure.
In 1986, a Faizabad district court allowed Hindus to worship at the site. The then Rajiv Gandhi government at the centre allowed VHP to conduct shilanyas (stone-laying ceremony) on land next to the Babri Masjid.
In 1990-91, BJP leader LK Advani began a ‘rath yatra’ for the construction of a Ram temple. Thousands of karsevaks meanwhile assembled in Ayodhya leading to clashes.
When was the Babri Masjid demolished? What happened next?
On December 6, 1992, karsevaks demolished the Babri Masjid structure.
Dissatisfied with the Allahabad HC verdict in September 2010, all three litigants filed cases in the Supreme Court and got it stayed.
In September-October 2019, the SC conducted day-to-day hearing of the case for 40 days and reserved the judgment. The final verdict is expected to be pronounced before the current CJI Ranjan Gogoi retires on November 17.
What was the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court?
In September 2010, the Allahabad HC ruling trifurcated the disputed area among the three litigants. The inner courtyard (where the central dome stood before demolition) went to Ram Lalla. The Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi went to the Nirmohi Akhara. The Muslim side was left to take possession of the extra land in and around the structure.
Is there any historical evidence of the presence of a temple at the disputed site?
On the orders of the high court, the Archaeological Survey of India conducted a probe in 2003. In its report, the ASI said it found the presence of a huge temple-like structure with walls and pillars underneath the demolished mosque. The survey, however, was disputed by some of the ASI members who were part of the team.
What do each of the three litigants want?
The Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla want possession of the land for the construction of a Ram temple. The Muslim party wants to rebuild a mosque at the same location.