Ayodhya Dispute - The Story Behind

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It all started in the 19th century,specifically the 1850s. The first recorded religious violence in Ayodhya took place near a mosque in Hanumangarhi. In the year 1853, the Babri masjid was attacked by Hindus for the very first time.

From that point onward, local Hindu groups started demanding that they ought to have ownership over that site so as to build a temple. All their demands were denied by the then colonial Government. 

Dispute During the British Era 

In 1859 when the colonial government tried to solve the dispute, the British colonial administration separated the places of worship by a wall to avoid dispute between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus were allowed to use the outer part and Muslims were allowed to use the inner part.

The case went to court in 1885 when a Hindu priest Mahant Raghubir Das filed a petition seeking permission to build a canopy over the Ram Chabutra ( a raised platform). However, the Faizabad court dismissed the petition. 

After Independence 

On 22nd of December 1949, Hindu activists broke into the mosque and placed the idols of Ram and Sita inside it. The people were led to believe that the idols had miraculously appeared inside the mosque. The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ordered to remove the idols immediately.

However, the local officer of Faizabad district K.K. Nair refused to remove the idols from the mosque by claiming that it would lead to communal riots. The police had to then lock the gates so that people could not enter the mosque.

The idols, though, remained inside and priests were allowed to enter for their daily worships. The mosque then converted into a defacto temple. Sunni Wakf Board representing the mosque and Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Maha Shabha (ABRM) representing the temple, both filed a civil suit in the local court for their respective claims. 

The land was then declared to be under dispute by the court and the gates were locked due to the court’s order. On 9th of November 2019, the Supreme Court gave its final order and it paved the way for the construction of Ram temple.


Why a Similar Case May Not Arise 

Irrespective of the judgement of the court, a repetition of an Ayodhya like case is not possible. This is because the P.V. Narsimha Rao government passed a law in September, 1991 named the Places of Worship (Special Provisons) Act, 1991.

The 1991 Places of Worship Act declared that "the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day."

In simpler terms, the law states that the religious nature of the mosque, temple or for that matter any other worship place cannot be changed after 1991. The law, though, specifically mentioned the Ayodhya Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid case to be an exception.

The Places of Worship Act reads, "No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof".

Only a year later after the law was passed, Babri Masjid was demolished by the karsevaks (volunteers) who had gathered in Ayodhya at the call of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). This law acted as a good measure to block similar agitations in Kashi and Mathura.

The 1991 law prescribes a “three-year jail term to persons making an attempt to change the religious nature of a place of worship, abetting such an attempt or being part of a conspiracy to that effect.” If a politician is found guilty of the same, he or she would be disqualified from contesting elections.

This law till now has prevented other similar Ayodhya like disputes from becoming a big issue, considering the Ayodhya dispute has been going on for over a century now. Even though, a final verdict has been released regarding the same, there are many conjectures towards it which keeps the dispute alive.

Written by - Kshitij Kumar Ojha

Edited by - Daity Talukdar

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