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25 Years of National Shame - Negotiation & Dispute Resolution

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“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” Stuart Chase.

The subject of this paper is the Ayodhya dispute. This dispute is a political, historical and socio-religious debate. To understand the case better and to help resolve this age-old conflict, we will first have to look at the timeline of how things unfolded, various parties involved, understand the facts that were brought forward and look at the different court decisions that have come forth since then. The Supreme Court of India will start to hear the appeals on this dispute from February 2018.

WHAT IS THE DISPUTE ABOUT?

On December 6, 1992, a large crowd of approximately 150,000 Hindu kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The demolition ensued a series of religious riots across India resulting in the death of over 2,000 people.

The age-old dispute in India between the Hindus and the Muslims is over the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

The Hindus claim the mosque was the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered deities in the Hindu religion, and that the mosque was built after the destruction of a Hindu temple by Muslim rulers in the 16th century.

Muslims state that they had been offering prayers for centuries until 1949, when idols of Lord Ram were mysteriously found inside the mosque.

TIMELINE

The following timeline will help us understand how this situation escalated and eventually landed at the doorstep of the Supreme Court of India.

1525

The first Mughal emperor Babur conquered large parts of northern India.

1528

The Babri Masjid is constructed on the orders of Babur by his general Mir Bagi, by supposedly destroying the existing Ram Mandir.

1853

The first events of religious violence over the Babri Masjid were witnessed.

1859

Fences were erected by the British colonial administration to separate the places of worship, where the inner court was allowed for the Muslims to worship and the outer courts by the Hindus.

1949

Two years after India got its independence from the British, idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the mosque. Muslims allege the idols were placed by the Hindus. They protest as a result and both parties file civil suits. The government declared the premises as disputed area and locked the gates.

1984

Under the leadership of the then president of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) forms a special committee with sole aim to lead charge for the construction of a temple in honor of Lord Ram by setting free his supposed birthplace.

1986

The Faizabad district judge ordered the gates of the structure to be opened for Hindus to offer prayers. As a result, the Babri Masjid Action Committee was formed.

1989

The then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, allows a ground breaking or foundation laying ceremony on an undisputed site close to Babri Masjid. VHP was leading this movement.

1990

BJP president, L. K. Advani, launches a pilgrimage procession to galvanize the support for the issue. VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. Then PM, Chandra Shekhar tried to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which eventually failed next year.

1991

BJP comes to power in the state of Uttar Pradesh where Ayodhya, the disputed land, is situated.

1992

On December 6, the supporters of BJP, Shiv Sena and the VHP, the so called kar sevaks, demolish the Babri Masjid, prompting nationwide religious riots between Hindus and the Muslims. FIRs are filed against the actual demolition of the mosque and against various political leaders for communal speeches to instigate the crowd before the demolition.

1998

The BJP formed a coalition government under PM A. B. Vajpayee.

2001

On the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque, tensions begin to flare up. VHP again pledged to build a Hindu temple at the site of Babri Masjid.

Jan 2001

Then PM, A. B. Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders to resolve the issue.

Feb 2002

BJP rules out from committing itself to the construction of the temple. VHP confirmed the deadline of 15 March to start construction of the temple. A train carrying Hindu activists, men, women & children, returning from Ayodhya was set on fire in Godhra, Gujarat killing 58 people.

Mar 2002

Following the attack in Godhra, riots ensued in Gujarat killing between 1000 to 2000 people, mostly Muslims.

Jan 2003

A high court orderd the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), to excavate the disputed site to determine whether a temple existed or not.

Aug 2003

The survey concluded with evidence of existence of a 10th century temple beneath the mosque, but the findings were disputed by the Muslims. PM A. B. Vajpayee hopes the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.

Sept 2003

A court ruled that seven Hindu leaders should stand trial for inciting violence and the destruction of the Babri Masjid, but there was no mention of then BJP leader, L. K. Advani.

Nov 2004

A court in Uttar Pradesh, ordered to review the documents which exonerated L. K. Advani for his role in the demolition of the mosque.

Nov 2009

A Liberhan Commission report was published which blamed leading Hindu politicians for their role in the demolition of the mosque. This report caused an uproar in the parliament which had a majority from the BJP.

July 2010

The special committee appointed to oversee the dispute, advised all parties to resolve the issue amicably, but no one was keen on it.

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