With the judgment finally being delivered on Ayodhya, which is claimed as the birth place of Lord Rama before being occupied by Babri Masjid, one of the world’s longest running disputes — going back six centuries to 1528 AD — will reach a legal conclusion.
Ayodhya was witness to the lighting of over four lakh diyas (earthen oil lamps) on Deepavali this year, led by Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, with huge crowds chanting “Jai Sri Ram.”
Heavy security has been deployed in the twin-towns of Ayodhya and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh to help maintain peace when the verdict is announced.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal are planning to celebrate 'Shaurya Diwas' (Day of Valour) and `Vijay Diwas' (Victory day) while Muslim organisations are planning 'Day of Sorrow' to mark 25 years of Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, according to news reports. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has reportedly promised to call it a Black Day. Even the Chairman of the Babri Masjid Action Committee claimed that they have been waiting for the past 25 years for the Government of India to fulfil its promise of reconstruction of Babri Masjid in the same place that is being claimed by Hindu organisations as Lord Rama’s birthplace, media reports said. The apex court has been hearing 14-odd appeals filed against the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad High Court in four civil suits. The stakeholders in the case had moved the apex court after the Allahabad HC ordered that the 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties, Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (the infant Lord Ram represented by Hindu Mahasabha).
Opponents say there is no substantial evidence to claim this was Lord Rama’s birthplace; at best there are faint suggestions that there might have been a temple that was repurposed for building the Babri mosque.
Hindu organisations have countered this with the claim that these theories were based on accounts that were recorded at a time when modern day archaeological techniques were not developed.
In 2003, ASI conducted excavations at the disputed site following orders of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.
A Ground Penetrating Radar was used to conduct the survey, and all archaeological findings were videographed and tallied with previous findings, indicating the existence of a temple. Archaeological evidences included pillars, terracotta statues, base and Kalash, including a 'Vishnu Hari Sheela Phalak' an inscription, in two pieces were found near the disputed site. Experts see them as a sound circumstantial evidence of the existence of a temple there. Opponents questioned the validity of the findings to ascertain that the place was indeed the birth place of Lord Rama. The Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, has commented that inferences from the ASI excavation survey were drawn by "cultivated and studied minds.”
Politicisation of the issue
The Ayodhya issue grabbed national headlines in 1984, but the seeds were sown in 1949, when Ram Lakshman idols were found inside the Babri mosque in the intervening night of December 22-23. Following this, through a series of court orders, a week later, the main gate of the mosque was locked and entry denied, with the property being declared disputed by the then Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Govind Ballabh Pant.
Political experts see that as the beginning of peddling soft-communal politics, where Pant was trying to consolidate his base in the State, as he was under substantial pressure by the strong socialist leaders in UP.
The political compulsions of playing the communal card came up once again after Rajiv Gandhi became PM in 1984.
Rajiv Gandhi tried to appease the Muslims by overturning the 1985 SC order in the controversial Shah Bano case, filed in 1978, demanding alimony and maintenance from her divorced husband, a renowned lawyer in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
In 1985, the SC passed a verdict in her case, declaring that CrPC applies to all Indian citizens regardless of their religion.
Following the judgment, Rajiv Gandhi government overrode the SC’s landmark judgment by passing the Muslim Women (Protection of rights on Divorce) Act in 1986.
This move by the Congress government was seen as a means to gain Muslim leaders’ confidence but it did not go down well with a majority of the Hindu community.
Taking advantage of this, the BJP and RSS started raising the Ram Janmabhoomi issue labelling Congress as anti-Hindu.
Sensing strong anti-Hindu undercurrents and fearing a backlash, Rajiv Gandhi decided to open the locks on the Babri Masjid. Though the Congress refuses to accept its role in doing so, saying that those orders came from the district judge of Faizabad in 1986, the BJP screamed appeasement.
Simultaneously, the BJP under A B Vajpayee, L K Advani, and RSS grabbed the opportunity, and started building a mass movement around the Ram Mandir.
On December 6, 1992, the mass movement culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, by right-wing saffron activists.
Looking at the gathering mass sentiment around Ram Mandir, especially in the Hindi-heartland, and the emerging new dynamics of political polarisation, even PV Narasimha Rao, the then PM and his Congress government were blamed for not doing enough to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The rise of BJP
Things started to change after the general elections in 1984, when BJP managed just two seats. The soft-peddling of the Hindutva card was not working. They needed a new narrative, much stronger, and with much more emotional appeal.
The following five years turned out to be full of action with the opening of the Babri Masjid locks by Rajiv Gandhi, giving more ammunition to rally the party cadres and affiliate organisations, to build a strong public opinion in favour of building a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
BJP's hard campaign helped them jump to 85 seats in the 1989 elections, from two in 1984. A beaming Advani decided to undertake an ambitious Ram Rath Yatra, from Somnath, an important Hindu milestone to Ayodhya.
In the 1991 Parliamentary elections, BJP won 120 seats. The Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. It led to the BJP forming a five-year government in 1999 under A B Vajpayee.
When BJP returned to office after a 10-year UPA rule, PM Modi strongly infused nationalism and patriotism with his assertive Hindutva, far stronger than the Ayodhya issue.