India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated a grand temple to the Hindu God Ram in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, culminating a four-decade campaign to build the temple by Hindu far-right groups.
The temple, popularly known as Ram Mandir, is being constructed on the land where a 16th-century mosque stood until 1992, when Hindu far-right mobs demolished it, triggering a nationwide Hindu-Muslim riots that killed more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Hindus claim the Babri Masjid was built on the site of a temple during the first Mughal ruler Babar, on land that was the birthplace of their chief deity Ram. Muslims offered prayers until 1949 when idols were placed inside the mosque allegedly by Hindu priests.
An Indian Supreme Court ruling in 2019 gave ownership of the land to a Hindu trust. The inauguration of the temple is being seen as a symbol of religious triumphalism, turning India’s secular democracy into a Hindu-first nation, further polarising politics that will likely benefit the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) months ahead of general elections.
Here is a timeline of the mosque-temple dispute:
1528 – Mosque construction
Babri Mosque is built by Mughal commander Mir Baqi under the rule of the first Mughal king, Babur.
1853 – First recorded instance of conflict
A Hindu sect claims that a temple was destroyed during Babur’s reign to make way for the mosque.
1859 – The British erect a fence
The British colonial administration partitions the site into two separate sections for Hindus and Muslims. Muslims allowed to pray inside, while Hindus allowed to worship in the outer courtyard.
December 23, 1949 – Mosque becomes a ‘disputed property’
The government declares the mosque a “disputed property” and locks its gate after idols of Ram deity are allegedly placed by Hindu priests inside the structure, according to police reports. No Muslim prayers offered at the mosque after that.
1950-61 – Civil suits filed
Four civil suits are filed in the court ranging from the rights to perform Hindu rituals at the site to a Muslim group seeking declaration and possession of the site.
1984 – Hindu temple committee
A committee is formed by Hindu far-right groups, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), to spearhead the construction of a Hindu temple.
1990 – BJP’s Ram temple campaign
BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani leads a nationwide campaign to build a temple in the place of the mosque. The nationwide campaign leaves a trail of violence in its wake, resulting in Advani’s arrest in the eastern state of Bihar.
December 6, 1992 – Hindu nationalist mob tears down the mosque
Tens of thousands of Hindus gather in Ayodhya, pulling down the 16th-century mosque. Hindu-Muslim riots break out across the country.
December 16, 1992 – Liberhan Commission
Ten days after the demolition of the mosque, the central government forms the Liberhan Commission to investigate the incident.
2003 – Archaeological survey
Archaeologists begin a court-directed survey to determine whether a Hindu temple existed at the site. The survey says there is evidence of a temple beneath the mosque, but many archaeologists and Muslims dispute the findings.
June 2009 Liberhan Commission report
The commission submits its report 17 years after the demolition of the mosque. The report names several leaders of the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as responsible for the demolition of the mosque. Some senior BJP leaders, including Advani, face trial.
September 2010 – Site to be ‘shared’
Three judges of the Allahabad High Court rule that Hindus and Muslims should share the disputed site. The court says two-thirds of the 2.77-acre (1.12-hectare) site belongs to Hindu groups – Nirmohi Akhara sect and Ramlalla Virajman – and the rest to the Muslim group (Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP).
May 2011 – Ruling suspended
The Supreme Court suspends the High Court ruling following appeals by Hindu and Muslim groups.
March 21, 2017 – Out-of-court settlement
The chief justice of India suggests an out-of-court settlement between Hindus and Muslims.
April 19, 2017 – Conspiracy charges
The Supreme Court revives conspiracy charges against top governing party leaders – Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi – and 13 others in the mosque demolition case.
December 5, 2017 – Supreme Court hearing
The top court hears 13 appeals in the dispute.
January 25, 2019 – Five-judge bench to hear case
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi sets up a five-judge bench to hear the case overruling an earlier order by then-CJI Dipak Misra to set up a three-judge bench. The new bench comprises Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.
The top court sets up a mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court judge FM Ibrahim Kalifulla to reach an out-of-court settlement.
The Supreme Court says mediation efforts have failed.
August 6, 2019 – Day-to-day hearing
Supreme Court commences day-to-day hearing on the Ayodhya land dispute.
October 16, 2019 – Hearing concluded, order reserved
The Supreme Court concludes the hearing; the five-judge bench reserves the judgement.
November 9, 2019 – Supreme Court ruling
The Supreme Court rules that the land must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, subject to conditions. A separate piece of land in Ayodhya is awarded to Muslim groups.
February 5, 2020 – Trust set up
A 15-member Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust is set up to oversee the construction and management of the temple.
August 5, 2020 – PM lays foundation stone
Modi lays the foundation stone for the temple and unveils its plaque.
September 30, 2020
A court in Lucknow acquits senior BJP leaders, including Advani – a one-time mentor of Prime Minister Modi – in the case for lack of evidence.
January 22, 2024 – Temple consecration
Despite the construction of some wings still pending, the Ram temple is consecrated.
A large ceremony featuring prominent figures, Hindu spiritual leaders, and Modi is held in Ayodhya.
The ceremony involves a procession of idols and a statue of Ram being placed in the inner sanctum of the building.
The temple will open to the public and devotees from Tuesday.