Ayodhya: Once There Was A Mosque

1528

The Babri Masjid is constructed in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, upon the instructions of the Mughal emperor Babur.
16th-18th centuries: There is no record or discussion of the mosque having been built over a demolished temple, nor indeed is there any record of claims being made that the site was the birthplace of Rama.

Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Photo: PTI

1855

The temple town of Ayodhya witnesses clashes between Sunni Muslims and Bairais over the temple of Hanumangarhi, with the former claiming the temple was built at the site of a demolished mosque. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah intervenes on behalf of the temple and holds the peace.

Hanumangarhi or the temple of Hanuman in Ayodhya. Photo: Shome Basu

1859

As a local belief about the Babri Masjid being the birthplace of Rama gathers currency, the British colonial administration erects a fence at the site. While Muslims use the mosque's inner court to pray, Hindus are allowed to use the outer court.

1885

Mahant Raghubir Das seeks permission to build a platform or chabutra in the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid. His plea is later rejected by a local court.

A painting by William Hodges of Ayodhya in 1785 as seen from river Ghaghara. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

March 1934

The dispute comes to life again with the outbreak of rioting between Hindus and Muslims which results in damage to the mosque and the dome, which was subsequently rebuilt by the government.

1938-1947

Shia and Sunni Waqf boards contest each other's claims to the Babri masjid but a local court eventually rules in favour of the latter.

The Babri Masjid in early 1900. Photo: The British Library Board

22 December, 1949

Idols of Lord Ram are planted by Hindu Mahasabha activists inside the mosque. The mosque is then locked. District magistrate K.K. Nayar refused to remove the idol on the premise that this would lead to large-scale rioting. He later joined the Jan Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, and was also elected as an MP.

Babri Masjid in 1990. Photo: PTI

26 December, 1949

Nehru sends a telegram to the chief minister of the United Province Govind Ballabh Pant expressing concern over the developments in Ayodhya.

Jawaharlal Nehru. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

1950

Hashim Ansari files a petition in the Faizabad court asking for the mosque gates to be opened and for namaz to be allowed. Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das also file suits in the Faizabad court seeking permission to offer prayers to the idols in the so-called asthan janmabhoomi. While the inner courtyard remains locked, prayers are allowed from outside. An interim injunction allows a pujari in but forbids entry to others.

Mohammad Hashim Ansari in June 16, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Tom Lasseter

1959

A third suit is filed in the Faizabad court by the Nirmohi Akhara (headed by Mahant Bhaskar Das). The Akhara stakes claim to the disputed ground and claims to be responsible for conducting the puja.

District court of Faizabad. Photo: districts.ecourts.gov.in

1961

A fourth suit is filed by the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board in the Faizabad court asking for the restoration of the Muslims' right to pray at the mosque.

1964

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is formed by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte to safeguard "Hindu interests".

Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad in New Delhi, December 2018. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

April 6, 1980

The BJP is founded after the dissolution of the Janata Party.

A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. Photo: PTI

1981

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board files a suit for possession of the site.

1984

Hindu groups form a committee to spearhead the construction of the Ram temple as the Ram Janmabhoomi movement gathers momentum. BJP leader L.K. Advani assumes leadership of the movement.

L.K. Advani. Photo: Reuters

April 1984

In response to a mass conversion in Meenakshipuram in 1981, where around 400-800 Dalit families converted to Islam, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad held a 'dharma sansad'. Under VHP joint general secretary Ashok Singhal's leadership, a demand was raised to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. A Shriram-Janaki rath yatra was taken out from Sitamarhi in Bihar to Delhi on September 25, 1984. Six more yatras were taken out in UP.

Models of the proposed Ram Temple were taken to religious conventions around the country by the VHP. Seen here with Ashok Singhal. Photo: Reuters

November 1984

General elections are held for the 9th Lok Sabha in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination. The BJP wins only two seats out of 541. The party's openly Hindutva politics and espousal of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement fails to yield dividends.

The 1984 general elections resulted in a landslide victory for the INC lead by Rajiv Gandhi which won 414 seats. Photo: Rajiv Gandhi. Photo: PTI

23 April 1985

Supreme Court delivers its verdict in the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and upholds the decision of the high court that gave orders for maintenance to Shah Bano under CrPC. The judgment is denounced by conservative Muslim leaders.

Shah Bano. Photo: Wikimedia

February 1, 1986

A district judge directs that the Babri Masjid gates be unlocked and Hindus be allowed to worship there. In protest, Muslims set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee. According to historian Ramachandra Guha, "the judge's order was widely believed to have been directed from Delhi, from the Prime Minister's Office, no less. The local administration seemed to know of the judgment beforehand, for the locks were opened within an hour of the verdict." Television crews from Doordarshan were also present. Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister at the time and the move was part of the 'divide and rule' politics of a government that was coming under a cloud because of corruption charges. A few months after appeasing Hindu communalists, he did the same with their Muslim counterparts.

Rear view of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

May, 1986

Parliament passes the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, effectively overturning the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case. In a 2001 interview, L.K. Advani said that the Rajiv Gandhi government's decision to open the doors of the Ram temple and its backtracking over the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case were crucial factors that forced the BJP to get involved in the Ayodhya movement.

Arif Mohammad Khan quits INC over his differences with Rajiv Gandhi on the Muslim Personal Law Bill. Photo: Youtube/India Vision 2017

1986

L.K. Advani becomes the president of the BJP.

L.K. Advani. Photo: PTI/Files

July, 1989

A fresh suit is filed by VHP vice-president and former judge of the Allahabad high court Deoki Nandan Agarwal seeking to become the "sakha" or friend of the deity and its birthplace in the title suits at the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC. In July 1996, the high court clubbed all the cases together.

Wikimedia Commons

August 14, 1989

Allahabad high court orders maintenance of status quo with respect to the Babri Masjid.

November 9, 1989

Rajiv Gandhi government allows the VHP to perform shilanyas (laying of the foundation stone) for the Ram temple on November 9, 1989, on the disputed land.

VHP's Dharma Sabha in Ayodhya. Photo: PTI/Nand Kumar

1989

In the recently concluded general elections, the BJP emerges as the third-largest party with 89 seats and supports V.P. Singh's National Front government from outside.

V.P. Singh. Photo: PTI

September 25, 1990

BJP President L.K. Advani launches his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to gather support for the Ram temple. He is arrested in Samastipur in Bihar by the government of Lalu Prasad Yadav in November, 1990. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal is also arrested.

L.K. Advani. Photo: Reuters

October 30, 1990

Kar sevaks clash with the police on their way to Ayodhya's Babri Masjid and at least 20 kar sevaks are killed. Mulayam Singh Yadav was chief minister at the time. Uttar Pradesh was subsequently rocked by a series of communal clashes. After the Rath Yatra, the BJP withdraws its support to the National Front central government led by V. P. Singh, leading to its collapse.

Picture of Kar sevaks who died in police firing at Ayodhya in Oct-Nov 1990. Photo: Youtube screengrab

1991

BJP emerges as the second-largest party with 121 seats in the Lok Sabha following the general elections but the Congress under Narasimha Rao forms the government at the Centre.

BJP starts to influence national politics. Photo: Reuters

1991

BJP forms the government in Uttar Pradesh with Kalyan Singh as the chief minister.

Kalyan Singh (Centre) Photo: Reuters

December 6, 1992

A crowd of almost 150,000 people gather to listen to speeches by BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders - including LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi - at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The crowd later storms the mosque and demolishes it in a few hours. The demolition occurred despite assurances from the state government to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, on the evening of December 6, 1992, kar sevaks started attacking Muslim residents of Ayodhya, ransacking and demolishing their houses. Eighteen Muslims were murdered, almost all their houses and shops were torched and destroyed, including 23 local mosques. Additionally, riots broke out in different parts of the country, including Mumbai, and around 2,000 people were killed.

Kar sevaks storm the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Photo: Sunil Malhotra/Reuters

December 8, 1992

Muslims in Pakistan attack more than 30 Hindu temples and the Pakistani government closed offices and schools for a day to protest the destruction of a mosque in India.

A Hindu temple in Sialkot Pakistan. Photo: Wikipedia

December 16, 1992

The Narasimha Rao government sets up the Liberhan Commission, led by retired High Court Judge M. S. Liberhan, to investigate the case.

P.V. Narasimha Rao. Photo: PTI

March 1993

Terrorists orchestrate a series of deadly bomb blasts across Bombay, allegedly to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

1993 Mumbai serial blast. Photo: PTI

April 3, 1993

Parliament passes the 'Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act' under which the Centre acquires 67.703 acres of land in and around the Babri Masjid. Ismail Faruqui files a written petition challenging some aspects of the Act.

Karsevaks at the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Photo: Reuters

1993

The Liberhan Commission begins its probe. CBI takes over the criminal case and files a chargesheet against BJP leader L.K. Advani and 19 others and accuses them of conspiring to demolish the mosque.

24 October 1994

The Supreme Court in the Ismail Faruqui case says that 'Mosque' is not integral to Islam owing to the fact that 'Namaz' can be offered anywhere. Supreme Court finds UP chief minister Kalyan Singh guilty and the court sentences him to a token imprisonment of one day with a fine of Rs 20,000.

Babri Masjid demolition. Photo: PTI/Files

1998

The BJP forms a coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Photo: PTI

2001

Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build a Hindu temple at the site.

A Hindu activist walks past a temple wall, where devotees have written the name of Lord Ram, in Ayodhya. Photo: Roy Madhur/Reuters

May 2001

A special CBI court drops proceedings and conspiracy charges against the accused including Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray and others.

January 2002

PM Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughan Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a public meeting with L.K. Advani. Photo: Reuters

February 2002

BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirms deadline of 15 March to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack in March. Narendra Modi is chief minister of Gujarat at the time.

2002

The Allahabad high court directs the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the Babri Masjid site to determine if a temple lay underneath.

A model of a proposed Ram temple. Photo: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

August 2003

The ASI submits a report saying that there is evidence of a 10th century temple beneath the mosque. Its report is refuted by archaeologists and historians.

Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Photo: PTI

September 2003

CBI special court rules that seven Hindutva leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges are brought against Advani, now deputy prime minister, who was also at the site in 1992.

November 2004

The court rules that the earlier order which exonerated Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.

L.K. Advani. Photo: Reuters

July 2005

Six suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attack the disputed Ram Janambhoomi complex in Ayodhya. The VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia held the Centre responsible for the "lapse in security" and blamed the UPA government. VHP president Ashok Singhal said that the attack intended to "destroy the excavated proof".

An Indian soldier stands guard near the wreckage of a Jeep used in an attack on Ayodhya. Photo: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

June 2009

The Liberhan commission investigating the events leading up to the mosque's demolition submits its report - 17 years after it began its inquiry - to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

One of the longest-running commissions in the history of the country, the commission, in its report, found several BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Pramod Mahajan, Uma Bharti and Vijayaraje Scindia, and VHP leaders like Giriraj Kishore and Ashok Singhal and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and former RSS leader K. N. Govindacharya culpable in the demolition of the mosque. The report held that several of the leaders had made provocative speeches at the rally and that the demolition was "neither spontaneous nor unplanned".

Justice MS Liberhan submits the one-man Commission report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 30, 2009. Photo: PTI

Sept 2010

Allahabad high court rules that the disputed land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid was shall be divided into three parts. A two-thirds portion is to be shared by two Hindu plaintiffs and one-third will be given to the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. Plaintiffs representing Lord Ram (i.e. VHP), the Nirmohi Akhara and the Waqf Board were declared joint title-holders of the property.

Rapid Action Force personnel on patrol in Ayodhya on the day the high court pronounced its verdict. Photo: Reuters

May 2011

Supreme Court suspends high court ruling after Hindu and Muslim plaintiffs appeal against the 2010 verdict.

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

May 2014

BJP's Narendra Modi leads the NDA coalition to power at the Centre.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes his oath at the presidential palace in New Delhi May 26, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Feb 26, 2016

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy files plea in SC seeking construction of a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. Photo: PTI

Jul 20, 2016

The oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid case Mohammad Hashim Ansari dies at 95 years of age.

Mohammad Hasim Ansari died in July 2016. Photo: Twitter/Tv9 Gujarati

March 2017

Supreme Court under Chief Justice J.S. Khehar says fresh attempts must be made by all parties concerned to find a solution to the Ayodhya title dispute which is a "sensitive" and "sentimental matter" and suggests an out-of-court settlement among rival parties.

Photo: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

March 2017

BJP wins the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Yogi Adityanath, founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, takes oath as chief minister.

Yogi Adityanath Photo: PTI

April 2017

Supreme Court rules that L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti, in addition to other BJP members and kar sevaks, will face charges of criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Kalyan Singh was excluded from the list because he held the post of the governor of Rajasthan. Several of the original accused, including Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, died during the trial. The court orders that the trial, to be held in Lucknow, be completed in two years.

Senior BJP leaders Uma Bharti, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Credit: PTI

May 30, 2017

A special CBI court frames charges against BJP stalwarts L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti for being part of the criminal conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid but granted them bail after they appeared before it.

L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Photo: PTI

July 2017

Speeding up preparations for the construction of a Ram temple on the Babri site in Ayodhya, truckloads of stones, to be used in building the temple, start arriving in Ayodhya.

Bricks with 'Jai Shri Ram' written on them in Ayodhya. Photo: PTI

August 2017

The Supreme Court constitutes a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra to hear a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad high court verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case.

Photo: PTI

August 8, 2017

The Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh tells the Supreme Court that a mosque could be built in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the disputed site in Ayodhya.

November 24, 2017

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says that only a Ram temple and not any other structure will be built at the disputed Ayodhya site.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Photo: Twitter/India Foundation

November 20, 2017

UP Shia Central Waqf Board tells SC temple can be built in Ayodhya and mosque in Lucknow. On December 1, 2017, thirty-two civil rights activists file plea challenging the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad HC.

February 8, 2018

Supreme Court starts hearing the civil appeals and on March 14, 2018, the Supreme Court rejects all interim pleas, including Swamy's, seeking to intervene as parties in the case.

July 6, 2018

UP government tells Supreme Court some Muslim groups are trying to delay the hearing by seeking reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.

September 27, 2018

Supreme Court declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.

November 12, 2018

Supreme Court declines early hearing of petitions in the case requested by Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha.

November 24, 2018

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray visits Ayodhya and accuses the Modi government of dragging its feet on the issue.

Uddhav Thackeray. Photo: PTI

January 8, 2019

Supreme Court sets up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud.

January 10, 2019

Justice U.U. Lalit recuses himself after lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Sunni Waqf Board, informed the court that the judge had appeared for former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh in a contempt matter related to Babri Masjid case during his time as a lawyer, prompting Supreme Court to reschedule the hearing for January 29 before a new bench.

Justice U.U. Lalit. Photo: LiveLaw

January 25, 2019

Supreme Court reconstitutes 5-member Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer to hear the case

March 8, 2019

Supreme Court refers the dispute for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F.M.I. Kallifulla and comprising the advocate Sriram Panchu and the Art of Living founder Venkatratnam Ravishankar Ramanayakanpet (also known as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar).

One of the members of the panel, Sri Sri Ravishankar. Illustration: The Wire

July 15, 2019

The special judge holding the trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case, involving BJP veterans L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti and others, moves the Supreme Court seeking six more months to conclude the trial.

August 2, 2019

After the mediation process fails to yield any results, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi says that hearing of the Ayodhya case will begin on August 6 again and will be held on a day-to-day basis.

October 14, 2019

The Ayodhya district administration imposes Section 144 until December 10 in view of the imminent Supreme Court verdict in the case.

October 16, 2019

In a surprise development on the last day of the hearings, the primary Muslim litigant in the title dispute case informs the Supreme Court that it is willing to drop its appeals in the matter - and its claims to the land on which the historic Babri Masjid stood for centuries before it was demolished by Hindutva activists and leaders in 1992 - provided the Centre is willing to guarantee that all other places of worship in India will be protected from similar encroachment. Other Muslim plaintiffs dissociate themselves from this offer, which in any case was not accepted by the main Hindu plaintiff, i.e. the VHP.

November 5, 2019

UP Police decides to 'scrutinise' social media posts for objectionable or inflammatory posts in light to the upcoming judgement.

November 6, 2019

Ahead of the Ayodhya title dispute case verdict, several prominent Muslim organisations appeal to the government and citizens of the country to maintain peace and law and order after the judgement is delivered. BJP asks spokespersons to exercise restraint and RSS appeals for calm.

November 8, 2019

Supreme Court registrar says verdict in the title suit will be delivered at 10:30 am on November 9, 2019.

November 9, 2019

The Supreme Court pronounced its "unanimous" verdict in the Ayodhya title dispute case, saying that the Hindu parties will be given the disputed land where the Babri Masjid once stood. The Sunni Waqf Board, the biggest Muslim litigant in the case, will be given five acres at a separate "prominent" location in Ayodhya.