The 69-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case has finally come to an end on Saturday with the Supreme Court handing over the disputed site to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas - a trust to be formed in three months by the Centre. A five-acre alternate land was announced for the building of a mosque for the Muslims. Outgoing Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, CJI designate S A Bobde, Justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer were in the constitution bench that delivered the unanimous verdict.
What then was 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. The Supreme Court said the ASI survey did not support this. This very mosque, called 'Babri Masjid', was dismantled by karsevaks on December 6, 1992. The 2.77 acres of land where the mosque stood was at the centre of the dispute.
Who were the litigants in the case?
There were three key parties — The Nirmohi Akhara (manager of the 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 first 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.
Was 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 did each of the three litigants want?
The Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla wanted possession of the land for the construction of a Ram temple. The Muslim party wanted to rebuild a mosque at the same location.