In a pivotal turn of events in 1949, an murti of Sri Ram Lala manifested inside the Babri Mosque beneath its central dome, considered by Hindus as a divine revelation. This occurrence triggered a wave of prayers from the Hindu community, escalating tensions with Muslim counterparts. Subsequently, both sides filed civil suits, marking the inception of a prolonged legal and socio-religious conflict.
In response to the escalating dispute, the government, recognising the sensitive nature of the issue, declared the site as disputed and took the unprecedented step of locking the gates.
Locking the gates became a symbolic act, signifying the official recognition of the longstanding religious conflict in Ayodhya. This decision would ultimately shape the trajectory of the Ayodhya dispute, leading to legal battles, protests, and a quest for resolution that would span decades.
In retrospect, the events of 1949 laid the foundation for one of India’s most enduring and contentious legal battles, with the divine appearance of Sri Ram Lala serving as a catalyst for the complex socio-religious dynamics that unfolded in Ayodhya
Abhiram Das – Wrestling Prodigy Turned Key Figure in Ayodhya’s Historical Narrative
In a twist of fate, Abhiram Das, formerly Abhinandan Mishra from Bihar’s Darbhanga district, emerged as a pivotal figure in Ayodhya’s historical saga. His journey from a wrestling enthusiast in Rarhi village to Ayodhya’s heart marked a significant chapter in the unfolding events.
Abhiram Das, renowned for his wrestling prowess and the ability to grapple with multiple opponents simultaneously, gained fame in Ayodhya. His exceptional skills garnered attention, leading to his selection by key architects of the Ayodhya dispute plan. Maharaja Pateshwari Prasad Singh of Balrampur, Mahant Digvijay Nath of Gorakhnath Muth, and Faizabad District Magistrate, KK Nayar, recognised Das’s potential contribution to their cause.
In the pivotal year of 1949, Abhiram Das emerged as a central figure in reshaping the destiny of Ayodhya’s disputed site. His audacious entry into the mosque on December 22, 1949, while carrying an murti of Bhagwan Rama, marked a watershed moment that reverberates through history. This daring act significantly influenced the legal proceedings, dealing a blow to the Muslim party’s attempt to establish adverse possession post-1949.
Abhiram Das, driven by his devout Hindu beliefs, navigated arrest and bail, becoming a symbol of resilience in the face of the unfolding dispute. Eventually, he immersed himself in the sacred waters of the Saryu, leaving behind a legacy that remains etched in Ayodhya’s complex history
A Prolonged Stalemate from 1950 to Early 80s
In the aftermath of 1950, when Hindu priests Gopal Simla Viharad and Paramhansa Ramachandra Das sought permission to offer prayers to Ram Lalla, the inner courtyard gates remained locked. The Faizabad Court permitted prayers, but for nearly three decades, there was a conspicuous absence of agitation for an expedited resolution to the Ayodhya dispute.
Archaeological Endeavours Unearth Clues
Simultaneously, during this period, a team of archaeologists led by former DG-ASI Prof BB Lal delved into the project titled “Archaeology of Ramayana Sites” from 1975–76. Their excavation efforts, including the examination of the Babri site, uncovered rows of pillar-bases suggestive of a potential mandir. Regrettably, the findings remained unpublished during this period, contributing to the prolonged dormancy surrounding the Ayodhya dispute.
Archaeological Revelations Amid Threats: Muhammed and Lal’s Untold Tale
Unveiling The Past: KK Muhammed’s Bold Assertion
In a pivotal moment on December 15, 1990, archaeologist KK Muhammed, part of the team under Prof BB Lal, claimed a groundbreaking discovery during excavations. He asserted that remnants of a mandir were discerned beneath the Babri structure, contending that the mosque was constructed over the mandir, utilising some of its remains. Despite facing multifaceted threats, Muhammed stood unwavering, emphasising the Sanskrit aphorism “स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेयः” – speaking the truth is preferable even at the cost of one’s life.
Academic Hindrance: BB Lal’s Struggle For Research Resumption
In 2003, Prof BB Lal, in a statement to the Allahabad High Court, disclosed a curtailment of technical facilities after his submission of a preliminary report to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This report highlighted the discovery of “pillar bases” beneath the Babri structure. Lal lamented the withdrawal of resources and the project’s subsequent stagnation despite repeated requests, shedding light on the academic hindrance faced in the pursuit of historical truth.
Ashok Singhal’s Leadership In Ayodhya Movement
In 1984, the inaugural Dharma Sansad of Hindu religious leaders marked a significant turning point, resolving to reclaim Ayodhya. In the same year, Mahant Avaidyanath established the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yagna Samiti, initiating the “tala-kholo” agitation. Under the guidance of VHP Chief Ashok Singhal, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) assumed a pivotal role in championing the construction of a Ram mandir in Ayodhya. The “Ram-Janaki-Rath-Yatra” was launched, and internationally, the VHP orchestrated conferences to garner support. Serving as a key associate for both Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Singhal was present in Ayodhya during the eventual demolition of the Babri Masjid.
1986 Ayodhya Verdict: Unlocking Of Ram Janmabhoomi Gates Sparks Tension
In 1986, lawyer Umesh Chandra Pandey, acting as a third party, sought to unlock the gates of the Ram Janmabhoomi. District Judge K M Pandey, on February 1, 1986, issued an order to open the Mosque gates for “darshan and pooja.”
The verdict granted permission for Hindu prayers and worship within the contested structure, triggering a sequence of events that would significantly influence the course of the movement.
Judge K.M. Pandey expressed, “If Hindus are offering prayers and worshiping murti in a restricted manner, then removing the locks from the gate won’t lead to catastrophic consequences. The District Magistrate affirmed today that the Muslim community is not permitted to offer prayers at the disputed site.” Pandey, known for his book “Voice of Conscience,” detailed in his autobiography a spiritual encounter with a black monkey, which he interpreted as a divine presence.
Rajiv Gandhi’s Strategic Move (1989)
In 1989, ahead of Lok Sabha elections, PM Rajiv Gandhi permitted the VHP to conduct Shilanayas (foundation stone laying) for a Ram mandir on November 9, 1989. This move escalated the VHP’s campaign, prompting all title suits to shift to the Allahabad High Court.
1990: LK Advani’s Strategically Repackaged Hindutva Ideal
Lal Krishna Advani adeptly rebranded the core Hindutva ideal for modern India, emphasising cultural nationalism. He portrayed the disputed mosque as a symbol of Hindu subjugation, committing to constructing a grand mandir as an act of penance. This strategic shift shaped the movement’s narrative and resonated with cultural sentiments.
Advani’s Historic Rath Yatra And Unprecedented Surge Of Emotions Among Hindus
On September 25, 1990, Lal Krishna Advani initiated a monumental Somnath-to-Ayodhya rath yatra aimed at “educating people” about the movement. The journey evoked strong emotions, as young men symbolically offered Advani cups of blood, signifying their readiness for martyrdom. During the yatra, devotees armed with bows and arrows genuflected before him, women performed puja, and sadhus anointed him with tilaks of blood.
Arrest of Adavani And Unforeseen Momentum Gathered By Movement
The then-Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav’s arrest of Advani on October 23 unexpectedly catapulted the movement to unprecedented heights. On October 30, thousands of Kar Sevaks, led by Ashok Singhal, gathered in Ayodhya, defying prohibitory orders. Negotiating obstacles, some swam across Sarayu, while others navigated fields to evade security. The atmosphere intensified as Kar Sevaks climbed atop the central dome, with the Kothari brothers, Ram and Sharad, hoisting a saffron flag. This series of events marked a turning point, shaping the movement’s trajectory.
Tragedy Unfolds: Police Crackdown On Kar Sevaks
On the orders of then UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav, police forces launched a brutal crackdown on Kar Sevaks in Ayodhya. The scene was harrowing as the police fired at the dense mass of people, resulting in tragic casualties. Sadhus and Kar Sevaks, struck by bullets in the forehead, crumpled under the ferocity of the assault, with over a hundred lives lost. In response, the Kar Sevaks took a day of rest, only to regroup on November 2.
Shaheed Gali Massacre
As the procession resumed and reached the mosque, the situation escalated. The police, exhibiting heightened ferocity, once again opened fire. The tragedy unfolded at Shaheed Gali, where hundreds of Kar Sevaks, including the Kothari Brothers, were killed. The police faced accusations of disposing of numerous bodies, either through cremation at undisclosed locations or by tossing them into the Saryu River in sacks. The events of that day remain etched in memory—never forgotten, never forgiven.
Communal Unrest Erupts Nationwide
The demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, triggered widespread communal riots across the country. In the aftermath, the BJP ascended to become the main opposition party at the centre and assumed power in Uttar Pradesh. Hundreds of thousands of Kar Sevaks participated in the razing of the disputed structure, reducing the Babri Masjid to rubble and establishing a makeshift mandir.
As Uttar Pradesh CM, Kalyan Singh had asserted that security would be provided at the disputed structure, pledging in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that only symbolic Kar Seva would occur. Upon the inevitable demolition, Singh swiftly resigned. In the later interviews, Singh proudly defended the Babri mosque demolition and described it as a matter of national pride.
PV Narasimha Rao’s Legacy Amid Babri Demolition Fallout
Despite the turmoil following the Babri Masjid demolition, the onus fell on Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Opting not to impose central rule in UP to protect the disputed structure, Rao faced repercussions. Subsequently, his government dismissed BJP-led governments in several states and initiated a commission of inquiry led by Justice MS Liberhan. Taking decisive action, Rao’s government issued an ordinance acquiring 67.7 acres of land, including the site, which later became law. The Babri demolition remains a significant chapter in Rao’s Prime Ministership legacy
SC Validates Ayodhya Act In Ismail Faruqui Judgment
During 1994-2000, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Acquisition of Certain Areas at Ayodhya Act in the Ismail Faruqui judgement. Notably, former CJI JS Verma emphasised that offering namaz at a mosque was not integral to Islam, marking a significant legal perspective.
1997 Babri Demolition Case: Charges Framed Against 49 Accused, Including Prominent Leaders
A special court handling the Babri demolition case issued charges against 49 accused, prominent among them being LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Kalyan Singh. Leaders like Uma Bharti, Sakshi Maharaj, and Sadhvi Ritambhara, known for their vocal presence at the rally, face allegations of inciting the mob, as per the Liberhan Commission.
Ayodhya Conflict Escalates Amid Political Initiatives and Tragic Godhra Incident
In a bid to address the Ayodhya issue, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government set a March 2002 deadline for the commencement of Ram mandir construction. An Ayodhya cell was established in the Prime Minister’s office, facilitating talks between Hindu and Muslim leaders. Simultaneously, the Vajpayee government filed a plea in the Supreme Court to lift the ‘interim order’ prohibiting religious activities in Ayodhya. However, tensions escalated dramatically on February 27, 2002, with a tragic incident in Godhra, Gujarat, where 59 people, carrying out Kar Seva from Ayodhya were burnt alive, sparking communal riots claiming over 1,000 lives.
ASI Resumes Excavation Amid Controversy Over Ayodhya Site
In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recommenced excavations beneath the Ayodhya disputed site, as directed by the Allahabad High Court. The ASI reported discovering remnants of a 10th-century Hindu mandir, sparking controversy as the Muslim party raised questions about the authenticity and credibility of the ASI’s findings.
Terrorist Attack Targets Ayodhya Site in 2005; Liberhan Commission Report Kept Confidential
In 2005, the Ayodhya site faced a terrorist attack when militants attempted to breach the complex’s wall using an explosive-laden jeep. Seventeen years later, in 2009, the Liberhan Commission submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but the contents remained confidential, shrouded in secrecy.
Allahabad High Court Allocates Disputed Ayodhya Site: Hindus Granted Central Dome Portion
In 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, analysing the ASI report, ruled on September 30 that the portion beneath the central dome at the Ayodhya site should be allotted to Hindus, proposing a three-way division. All parties contested the decision, filing appeals against the partition.
Supreme Court Suspended Ayodhya Verdict: Refused Referral To Larger Bench
In 2018, the Supreme Court suspended the Allahabad High Court ruling on the Ayodhya dispute. Simultaneously, petitioners urged a reconsideration of the Ismail Faruqui judgement, asserting the mosque’s non-integral status to Islam. However, in September 2018, the Supreme Court rejected the plea for a referral to a larger bench.
Supreme Court Advocated Amicable Resolution Amid Mediation Failure
In 2019, the Supreme Court, emphasising reconciliation, suggested court-monitored mediation. Despite failed negotiations, the final hearing commenced in September 2019. Advocate SK Parasaran, representing the Hindu side, eloquently presented arguments grounded in facts and logic during the proceedings.
Unanimous Verdict: Supreme Court Grants Ownership of Disputed Site to Ram Lalla
In a historic decision, the five-judge constitution bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, overturned the 2010 High Court verdict. Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and Abdul Nazeer unanimously declared Ram Lalla as the rightful owner of the entire contested site.
Unsung Heroes Of Ram Janmabhoomi Movement: Intellectuals, Media, and Leadership
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement, marked by its legal and historical complexities, had unsung heroes whose contributions were pivotal. Literary stalwarts Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup, and VS Naipaul, formed the intellectual backbone, offering a robust defense. Dainik Jagran’s editor, Narendra Mohan, displayed courage in truth-telling, while Ramanand Sagar’s TV show Ramayana kindled public enthusiasm. Last but the least, a special mention needs to be made for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose leadership ensured not only the verdict but the day-to-day progress of the case. Their collective efforts shaped this transformative journey of civilizational importance.