Babri verdict: A timeline of events and the long road to justice
As a special Central Bureau of Investigation court delivered its verdict in the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid criminal case, here is a look at how the case unfolded
New Delhi: Nearly three decades after the Babri Masjid -- a 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya -- was demolished in an event that changed the country's political and social landscape, a special CBI court in Lucknow delivered judgement and acquitted all the 32 accused, including BJP veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, by ‘kar sevaks’ who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.
Last year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the top court had ruled that the 2.77-acre land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims would be handed over to a trust for the building of a temple.
The following timeline attempts to offer an idea of the events that led to the demolition and those that shaped how it will be seen in history:
1528: The Babri Masjid is built in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, upon the instructions of the Mughal emperor, Babur.
1855: Sunni Muslims claim the temple of Hanumangarhi in Ayodhya is built on the site of a destroyed mosque. Clashes begin between them and Bairais, but Nawad Wajid Ali Shah is believed to have intervened on behalf of the temple to maintain peace.
1859: The British administration erects a fence around Babri Masjid, as the belief that the mosque is the birthplace of Ram gains currency. Hindus are allowed to worship in the outer court.
1885: Mahant Raghubir Das’s plea to build a worshipping platform in this outer courtyard is rejected by a local court.
March 1934: The mosque and its dome sustain damages during violence between Hindus and Muslims. The British government takes up rebuilding efforts.
1947: A local court rules that it is the Sunni Waqf Board and not the Shia Waqf Board that can hold sway over the Babri Masjid.
December 22, 1949: District Magistrate K.K. Nayar refuses to remove idols of Ram placed inside the mosque by Hindu Mahasabha members, citing possibility of riots. Nayar eventually joins the Jan Sangh and becomes an MP. The mosque comes under lock and key
1950: Muslim and Hindu parties file suits in Faizabad court, asking for permission for namaz and prayers, respectively. The inner courtyard remains locked. An interim injunction allows a pujari in but forbids entry to others.
1959: A third suit is filed in the same court by the Nirmohi Akhara, headed by Mahant Bhaskar Das, which asks for pujas to be conducted even on the disputed grounds.
1961: The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board files a fourth suit in the same court, asking for Muslims to be allowed to pray in the mosque.
1981: The above board files for possession of the site.
1984: As the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ movement gathers steam, L.K. Advani of the new political player Bharatiya Janata Party, becomes its de facto leader. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad leads a Shriram-Janaki rath yatra from Sitamarhi in Bihar to Delhi. Six similar yatras take place in Uttar Pradesh. BJP wins only two seats out of 541 in the Lok Sabha polls.
1986: A district judge — according to historian Ramachandra Guha, under orders from the PMO — directs that the Babri Masjid gates be unlocked and Hindus be allowed to worship there. In protest, Muslims set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee. Parliament passes the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, effectively overturning the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case, a crucial factor that paved the way for BJP’s participation in the Ayodhya movement, according to Advani, who became party chief in that year..
1989: Allahabad high court orders maintenance of status quo with respect to the Babri Masjid after a fresh suit is filed by VHP vice-president and former judge of the court Deoki Nandan Agarwal seeking to become the “sakha” or friend of the deity and its birthplace in the title suits
November 9, 1989: Rajiv Gandhi government allows the VHP to perform shilanyas (laying of the foundation stone) for the Ram temple on November 9, 1989, on the disputed land.
September 25, 1990: BJP President L.K. Advani launches his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to gather support for the Ram temple. He is arrested in Samastipur in Bihar by the government of Lalu Prasad Yadav in November, 1990. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal is also arrested.
October 30, 1990: Kar sevaks clash with the police on their way to Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid and at least 20 are killed. Communal clashes rock Uttar Pradesh.
December 6, 1992: A crowd of almost 150,000 people gather to listen to speeches by BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders – including LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi – at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The crowd later storms the mosque and demolishes it in a few hours. The demolition occurred despite assurances from the state government to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.
September 8, 1993: The UP government commits all cases - except the one involving BJP and VHP leaders - to a special court in Lucknow. FIR 198 - the case involving the leaders - was moved to a court in the state's Rae Bareli district.
October 5: The CBI files a single consolidated chargesheet against 48 accused and includes the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Kalyan Singh (and other prominent religious and political leaders). On October 8, the UP government amends its earlier order so all the cases can be heard by the same Lucknow court. In 1996, the CBI files a supplementary chargesheet naming LK Advani and the other BJP, VHP leaders in FIR 198.
September 9, 1997: The Lucknow court orders framing of charges for "criminal conspiracy" against all accused. The charges were read with other sections for promoting religious enmity and provocation with intent to cause riots. The court said that all offences had been committed in the "same transaction" and so warranted a joint trial.
February 12, 2001: The Allahabad High Court says the October 1993 notification that said all cases, including the one involving the BJP, VHP leaders, could be heard by the same court is invalid. The High Court further says that the special court's framing of charges in 1997 was "without jurisdiction".
May 2001: Special CBI court drops proceedings against the accused, including Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray, and others.
November 2004: CBI challenges before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, the dropping of proceedings against BJP leaders on technical grounds.
June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report—17 years after it began its inquiry. It held 68 people responsible for the demolition, mostly leaders from BJP. The report observed that the demolition was planned and illegal.
September 2010: Allahabad HC upholds earlier lower court order that stated that the two cases based on the two FIRs would be tried separately.
March 2012: CBI files an affidavit in SC seeking a common trial for all the cases.
April 2017: SC restores criminal conspiracy charge against leaders, including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and former Union cabinet minister Uma Bharti and clubs the trial in the matter pending against VIPs and karsevaks. The top court orders the case to be heard on a day-to-day basis, and that the judge hearing the case would not be transferred.
September 2020: The special CBI court acquits all 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, including former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, former Union ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh.