On December 6, 1992, Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished, changing India’s political fabric forever. After almost 27 years, the Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute today.
A five-judge Constitution Bench will pronounce its judgment on petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict that had divided the disputed 2.77-acre plot in Ayodhya among the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination, the Sunni Central Waqf Board, and representatives of Ram Lalla, the child deity. Arguments in the case ended on October 16 after a marathon hearing of 40 days.
Historical evidence shows that in 1528 a commander in first Mughal emperor Babur’s army, Mir Baqi, had constructed the mosque in Ayodhya which had come to be known as Babri Mosque. Let’s take a look at the timeline of events as they unfolded in the case over the decades leading up to today.
1885: One Mahant Raghubar Das files a suit seeking permission to construct a Ram Temple at the disputed site. A trial court rejects the petition fearing such a permission would lead to riots. Appeals are also rejected.
1934: A mob damages parts of the disputed structure. The British repair it. Muslims continue to offer prayers at the mosque and Hindus worship at Ram-Chabutra and Kaushalya Rasoi.
1949-1959: Lord Ram’s idols are planted inside the central dome of Babri masjid. Both sides file court cases; the site is locked. Ten years after that, Nirmohi Akhara files a suit seeking possession of the site and claims to be the custodian of the disputed land.
December 18, 1961: The Sunni Central Board of Waqf files a suit claiming ownership of the site.
1984: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launches a campaign for the construction of a Ram temple at what it claims to be the birthplace (Janmabhoomi) of Lord Ram. Two years after, the Faizabad district court orders that gates of the mosque be opened and Hindus be allowed to worship there. Muslims protest the move and form the Babri Mosque Action Committee.
November 9, 1989: VHP lays the foundation of a Ram temple on the land next to the Babri Masjid after receiving permission to do so from the Rajiv Gandhi government of the day.
September 25, 1990: Then BJP President L K Advani launches a Rath Yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya, demanding the construction of a Ram temple. However, he is arrested in Bihar’s Samastipur in November.
December 6, 1992: The Babri Mosque is razed to the ground by hundreds of kar sevaks.
April 2002: A three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court begins hearing to determine the ownership of the disputed land in Ayodhya. The HC orders the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the site and determine if it was a temple earlier.
2003: ASI finds evidence of the presence of a temple under the mosque. Muslim organisations dispute these findings.
September 30, 2010: The HC rules that the disputed land should be divided into three parts — a third should go to Ram Lalla Virajman, represented by the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha; one-third to the Sunni Waqf Board; and the remaining to the Nirmohi Akhara. In December, the parties move the Supreme Court.
May 2011: The Supreme Court stays the Allahabad HC order.
March 2017: The Supreme Court says charges against Advani and other leaders in the Babri Masjid demolition case cannot be dropped. The apex court adds that the matter is sensitive and must be settled out of court.
May 30, 2017: Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and Vinay Katiyar are charged with criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
December 5, 2017: The SC says it will hear the civil appeals filed by various parties challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict on February 8.
September 2018: The Supreme Court rejects the plea for a review of the 1994 Farooqui judgment but then clarifies that this would have no bearing on pending title suits.
October 2018: The Supreme Court decides that the land dispute case will only be listed before an “appropriate Bench” in January 2019. A Bench consisting of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph says: “The appropriate Bench will fix the schedule with regard to the hearing of appeals in the case.”
January 8, 2019: The Supreme Court sets up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the land dispute case.
January 10, 2019: A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hears the Ayodhya land title dispute case, sets January 29 as the next date for hearing in the case.
March 8, 2019: The SC refers the Ayodhya land dispute case for mediation, asks the panel to complete proceedings within 8 weeks.
August 1, 2019: The mediation panel submits its report to the apex court. The SC says the mediation panel failed to find a solution.
August 6, 2019: The top court begins day-to-day hearing in the case.
October 16, 2019: After a marathon 40-day daily hearing, the SC concludes hearing in the case. It says that a verdict will be delivered by CJI Gogoin before his retirement on November 17, 2019.
November 8, 2019: The Supreme Court lists Ayodhya title suit judgment for November 9.