What is the Ayodhya - Babri Masjid dispute all about?

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Ayodhya is a holy city, also known as the Ram Janmabhoomi or the city where allegedly Lord Ram was born. The whole dispute revolves around a plot of land in Ayodhya district in Uttar Pradesh. The site is regarded by the Hindu community as the birthplace of Lord Ram and is extremely holy to them. Babri Masjid existed on the same piece of land where there traditionally existed a temple as per the Hindus.The whole theory is that the Mughals had demolished a temple and created a mosque on the banks of Sarayu river, in Ayodhya. The controversy revolves around and huge sentiments are involved in whether there should a temple or a mosque in the disputed site.

But first let’s try and understand the history of the disputed site at Ayodhya to understand the gravity of this issue better.

Let’s go back in time in 1528, when a mosque was built up on the site, which was regarded as the spot where one of the most revered Hindu god’s Lord Ram was born. When religion violence started erupting in the 1800’s, the British administration created a fence to demarcate. The Hindus were allowed to worship in outer courtyard and the muslims in the inner courtyard.

A fresh dispute erupted in 1949, when idols of Lord Ram were found inside the mosque, which were perhaps placed there by the Hindus. As a result the muslims started protesting. Both parties filed civil suits and the government locked down the site citing it as a disputed site.

In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Party (VHP) started a campaign to build a Ram temple in the Ram janmabhoomi and this campaign was led by Lal Krishna Advani, then BJP leader. VHP has a huge role to play in spearheading the campaign, evoking sentiments of millions of Hindus to restore the lost shrine of Lord Ram. They also made repeated attempts to lay foundation stone of temple in the land adjacent to the mosque and also tried to damage the mosque multiple times.

What was a turning point in this story was in 1991 when BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh and in 1992 the Babri Masjid was demolished by 1,50,000 supporters of VHP, BJP and Shiv Sena. This also led to nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims and almost 2000 people died in the violence as a result of the aftermath of this incident.

The BJP again came to power by forming a coalition government in 1998 under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. And in 2001, once again after the 10 year of demolishment of Babri Masjid, the tension started erupting again. VHP once again pledged to build the temple in the disputed site.

The tension escalated once again in in Feb 2002 when around 58 activists were killed in Godhra after a mob attacked the Hindu activists who were returning from Ayodhya. In March 2002, riots broke out in Gujarat when at least 1000 to 2000 people, mostly muslims were killed.

Thereafter in 2003, following a court order archaeologists began their survey to find out if the remains of temple existed in the disputed site. As per their findings, there was evidence that a temple once existed there.

Ever since, this issue has been impending in the court with many trials and tribulations. Committees have been formed and negotiations have been done, yet this issue remains fresh till date. The Ram Janmabhoomi issue has found its place in the BJP elections manifesto in every election.

The debate regarding the history of the site and the dispute between Hindus and Muslims is colloquially known as the Ayodhya issue. Temple or no temple, mosque or no mosque, thousands of lives have been lost fighting this battle of one community against the another.

- Tanya Kathpal 

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