December 6 marks 29 years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which caused communal tensions and rioting across the country in 1992. A gathering of around 150,000 people gathered at the Babri Masjid to hear speeches by BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders, including LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The throng eventually attacked the mosque, demolished it in a matter of hours. The demolition took place despite promises from the state administration to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be destroyed.
Eyewitnesses said hundreds of policemen stood by and watched. More than 2000 people were killed in the riots that followed the demolition of the mosque. Then ten days later on December 16, 1992, the ‘Liberhan Commission was set up by the government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid.
On the evening of December 6, 1992, following the demolition of the Babri Masjid, kar sevaks attacked Muslim residents of Ayodhya, ransacked and demolished their homes. As per media reports, eighteen Muslims were murdered, and nearly all of their homes and businesses were set on fire and destroyed, including 23 local mosques. Furthermore, riots erupted in many regions of the country, notably Mumbai, killing around 2,000 individuals.
Two FIRs were filed, one against the kar sevaks for the demolition and the other against Advani, Joshi, and Bharti for their communal comments that led to the demolition.
Timeline of events
The events that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid, as well as those that were affected by it are outlined in the timeline below:
1528: Mir Baqi, on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur, constructed the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
1855: Sunni Muslims allege that the Hanumangarhi temple in Ayodhya was constructed over the foundation of a mosque. Clashes break out between them and Bairais, although Nawad Wajid Ali Shah is said to have intervened on the temple’s behalf to keep the harmony.
1859: As the concept that the mosque is the birthplace of Ram gained popularity, the British government set up barriers around it. The outside court was open to Hindus for devotion.
1885: A local court rejected Mahant Raghubir Das’s request to establish a worship platform outside the courtyard.
1934 (March): During rioting between Hindus and Muslims, the mosque and its dome were damaged. The British government undertook restoration work.
1947: A local court decided that neither the Sunni Waqf Board nor the Shia Waqf Board, has jurisdiction over the Babri Masjid.
1949 (December 22): District Magistrate K.K. Nayar refused to remove Ram statues placed inside the mosque by Hindu Mahasabha members, citing the risk of rioting. Nayar finally joined the Jan Sangh and was elected to the Lok Sabha. The mosque was then locked.
1950: Suits were filed in Faizabad court by Muslim and Hindu parties, respectively, seeking authorization for namaz and prayers. The inner courtyard was still closed. A preliminary injunction permitted a pujari in but barred others from entering.
1959: The Nirmohi Akhara, led by Mahant Bhaskar Das, filed a third complaint in the same court, requesting that pujas be performed even on the disputed grounds.
1961: In the same court, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board filed the fourth complaint, requesting that Muslims be permitted to pray in the mosque.
1981: The Sunni Central Waqf Board applied for possession of the site.
1984: As the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ campaign gained traction, L.K. Advani of the newly formed Bharatiya Janata Party assumed de facto leadership. A Shriram-Janaki rath yatra from Sitamarhi, Bihar, to Delhi was led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. In Uttar Pradesh, six such yatras were held. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won only two seats out of 541.
1986: According to historian Ramachandra Guha, on orders from the prime minister’s office, a district court ordered to unlock the gates of the Babri Masjid and Hindus were permitted to pray there. Muslims formed the Babri Masjid Action Committee in protest. LK Advani, became party head, Parliament passes the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, thus reversing the Supreme Court ruling in the Shah Bano case, a significant aspect that prepared the door for the BJP’s participation in the Ayodhya movement.
1989: The Allahabad High Court upheld the status quo with regard to the Babri Masjid following the filing of new action by VHP vice-president and former judge of the court Deoki Nandan Agarwal, who wanted to become the “Sakha” or friend of the god and its birthplace in the title litigation.
1989 (November 9): On November 9, 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi administration permitted the VHP to undertake shilanyas (foundation stone laying) for the Ram temple on the disputed property.
1990 (September 25): L.K. Advani, President of the BJP, began his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to rally support for the Ram temple. In November 1990, he was detained in Samastipur, Bihar, by the administration of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Ashok Singhal, the head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, was also detained.
1990 (October 30): At least 20 people were slain as kar sevaks wrestled with police on their way to Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid. Uttar Pradesh was rocked by communal riots.
1991 Following the general elections, the BJP, which had withdrawn its support for the V.P. Singh administration, and emerged as the second-largest party with 121 Lok Sabha seats. Kalyan Singh led the BJP administration in Uttar Pradesh.
1992 (December 6): Babri Masjid was demolished by kar sevaks.
1992 (December 16): The Narasimha Rao government established the Liberhan Commission to probe the case.
1993: Under the newly approved ‘Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act,’ the Centre seized 67.703 acres of land in and surrounding the Babri Masjid. The criminal matter was taken up by the CBI. Advani and 19 others have been charged with encouraging the destruction.
1994: The Supreme Court found UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh guilty and sentenced him to one day in jail and a fine of Rs 20,000.
2001: At the Centre, the NDA formed the government. A special CBI court dismissed the proceedings and conspiracy accusations against Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray, and others.
2002: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee established an Ayodhya cell in his office and assigned a senior official, Shatrughan Singh, to undertake negotiations with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
While the BJP did not pledge to build a Ram temple in its Uttar Pradesh assembly election programme, the VHP set a March 15 deadline for construction to begin. Hundreds of volunteers flocked to the spot.
The Allahabad High Court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India to dig the Babri Masjid site to see if a temple was built beneath it.
2003: The ASI submitted a study, which archaeologists and historians denied, claiming that there is evidence of a 10th-century temple beneath the mosque.
Although a CBI special court concluded that seven Hindutva leaders should face trial for encouraging the destruction of the Babri Mosque, no charges were filed against Advani, who was the deputy prime minister at the time and was also present at the site in 1992.
2004: The court determined that a previous ruling exonerating Advani for his participation in the mosque’s destruction should be revisited.
2005: Six Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were suspected of attacking the disputed Ram Janambhoomi complex in Ayodhya.
2009: 17 years after it began its investigation, the Liberhan commission submitted its report. Several BJP leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Pramod Mahajan, Uma Bharti, and Vijayaraje Scindia, as well as VHP leaders Giriraj Kishore and Ashok Singhal, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, and former RSS leader K. N. Govindacharya, were found culpable in the mosque demolition.
2010: The Allahabad High Court ordered that the disputed site in Ayodhya, where the Babri Masjid stood, should be partitioned into three sections. Two Hindu plaintiffs would share two-thirds of the award, while the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board will get one-third.
2011: Following an appeal by Hindu and Muslim plaintiffs, the Supreme Court halted the high court judgement.
2016: Subramanian Swamy, a BJP MP, petitioned the Supreme Court for the construction of a Ram temple on the site of the Babri Masjid. The BJP was in power at the time, and Narendra Modi was the prime minister.
Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the oldest plaintiff in the Babri Masjid lawsuit, died at the age of 95.
2017: Adityanath, the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, was sworn in as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister.
In the Babri Masjid demolition case, the Supreme Court declared that L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Union minister Uma Bharti, along with other BJP members and kar sevaks, will face criminal conspiracy charges. Kalyan Singh was left off the list since he was the governor of Rajasthan. Several of the original defendants, including Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, died during the trial.
The court mandates that the trial, which will be placed in Lucknow, be finished in two years. The BJP leaders were charged by the special CBI court, but they were given bail.
2018: The Supreme Court had begun considering civil appeals in the title dispute, and rejected all interim petitions, including Swamy’s, that attempted to intervene as parties in the case. It also rejected submitting the issue to a Constitutional Court of five judges.
2019: To hear the title dispute, the Supreme Court convened a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprised Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit, and D.Y. Chandrachud. Justice U.U. Lalit recuses himself from the case. To hear the case, a fresh bench was formed, consisting of CJI Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and S.A. Nazeer.
The special judge presiding over the Babri Masjid demolition trial has petitioned the Supreme Court for an extension of six months to complete the trial.
2019 (October 14): In light of the impending Supreme Court decision in the case, the Ayodhya district enforcing Section 144 till December 10.
2019 (October 16): On the final day of the hearings, the primary Muslim litigant in the title dispute case informed the Supreme Court that it is willing to drop its appeals in the matter – and its claim to the land on which the historic Babri Masjid stood for centuries before it was demolished by Hindutva activists and leaders in 1992 – in exchange for the Centre guaranteeing that all other places of worship in India would be protected from similar encroachment. Other Muslim plaintiffs disavowed this offer, which was in any event rejected by the primary Hindu plaintiff, the VHP.
2019 (November 8): According to the Supreme Court registrar, the decision in the title action would be given at 10:30 a.m. on November 9, 2019.
2019 (November 9): The Supreme Court issued a “unanimous” decision in the Ayodhya title dispute case, ruling that the Hindu parties would be handed the disputed site where the Babri Masjid formerly stood. The Sunni Waqf Board, the case’s most important Muslim claimant, would be allocated five acres in a separate “prominent” location in Ayodhya.
2020 (May 8): The Supreme Court extended the period for the conclusion of the trial in the demolition case by three months and said that the ruling should be given by August 31. This was extended by a month in August.
2020 (August 5): Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a Bhoomi puja of the Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid destruction. Several news outlets broadcasted the ceremony. None of the founding BJP leaders was present.
2020 (September 16): The special CBI court in Lucknow announced it will rule on the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 on September 30.
2020 (September 26): Uma Bharti, one of the accused, addressed a letter to BJP leader J.P. Nadda and declared that if convicted, she would not seek bail.
2020 (September 30): Former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, former Union Ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh were all acquitted by the special CBI court in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
(Compiled by Sumaya Junaid Ahmed)