By Prarthana Mitra
Within hours of BJP MP Rakesh Sinha’s declaration on Thursday to bring a private bill seeking Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya, the proposal drew overwhelming support from various BJP leaders including Gopal Shetty, Udit Raj, Roopa Ganguly and Kirit Somaiya.
Aimed at silencing the opposition for frequently questioning the timeline for construction, Sinha, over a series of tweets, asked for Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s support on the private bill he wanted to start working on immediately. Sinha’s tweet resonated with right-wing leaders especially after the Supreme Court deferred the next hearing on the Ram Ranmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute to next year, citing other priorities.
It also played well with BJP’s affiliate groups, namely the RSS and the VHP, which have been fuming with discontent over the delay of late. After the latest verdict, several Sangh Parivar groups had begun to agitate for an ordinance to bypass the judicial process and fast-track construction of the temple on the disputed territory.
History of the dispute in 10 points
- In the 1980s, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) began a campaign for the construction of a temple dedicated to Lord Ram at the site of the mosque, believing it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu deity-king. With the BJP as its political voice, several rallies and marches, including the Ram Rath Yatra led by L. K. Advani, pushed for the cause.
- In 1992, the 16th-century Babri mosque was razed by Hindutva groups and activists, after one such political rally at the site turned violent. This event continues to polarise the two communities even today and is believed to have changed the course of Indian politics forever.
- A subsequent inquiry into the incident found 68 people responsible, including several leaders of the BJP and the VHP. The demolition was followed by months of communal disharmony and rioting resulting in at least 2,000 deaths in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- In 1994, during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute, the apex court observed that building a mosque was not integral to Islam.
- After 399 sittings over sixteen years, the Liberhan Commission submitted its 1,029-page report to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 30 June 2009, clearing Advani and Rajnath Singh of conspiracy charges in the demolition.
- In 2010, the Allahabad High Court heard the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid case and directed the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area to be divided into three parts among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram, a party to the case). Some 14 petitions have challenged this verdict.
- The top court had been hearing these appeals when the issue of a mosque’s integrality to the practice of Islam came into question. On September 27, 2018, the Supreme Court refused to review the 1994 observation, saying that the previous verdict bears no relevance to the issue at hand.
- The judgement, pronounced by then CJI Dipak Misra, said that the context in which the five-judge bench had delivered the 1994 verdict needs to be established first. Justice S Abdul Nazeer had said in this context, that whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to take religious beliefs into account, which requires detailed consideration.
- The court then ruled that the civil suit on land dispute would be heard by a three-judge bench on October 29, which postponed the hearing to January 2019.
- Meanwhile, the RSS has promised to organise a campaign similar to the 1992 rally, if permission to start building the temple was not ratified by the top court soon.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.