Babri Masjid Demolition case: In a setback to the BJP, the Supreme Court of India on April 19, 2017 revived the conspiracy charges against some of its top leaders in connection with Babri Masjid demolition case of 1992. The 16th-century Babri Masjid on a disputed site in Ayodhya was demolished in 1992. But the incident was not something that took place at the spur of the moment. Instead, it was almost the culmination of hundreds of years of conflict that started with the construction of the mosque on the instruction of then Mughal Emperor Babar in 1528. Hindus continue to believe that the disputed site was the birthplace of Lord Ram, while the Muslims refuse to accept this claim.
India became independent in 1947, but the dispute over the site remained unsolved. In the 1980s, the conflict took some political colours in the form of Ramjanmabhoomi movement launched by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and later led by BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani. The movement resulted in the demolition of the mosque structure, leading to riots and an unending dispute that continues to challenge the secular fabric of India even today. To understand the entire dispute and the conspiracy case against Advani and others, one needs to take a look at the entire history — from the construction of the mosque to its demolition and until today.
Here is a brief timeline:
1528: Mir Baki builds Babri Masjid on the orders of Mughal emperor Babar.
1885: First suit regarding the disputed Babri Masjid structure filed. Mahant Raghubir Das fails to get permission to build temple on the outer courtyard of Babri Masjid.
1949: Lord Ram’s idol appear inside the mosque, leads to clashes. Government declares the site as disputed, locks the gates
1950: Faizabad court allows puja before the installed idols. Inner courtyard remained closed.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main parties to the dispute, seeks permission to conduct prayers.
1961: Sunni Central Board of Waqfs in UP file case to claim the mosque, argues surrounding area is graveyard.
1984: VHP starts the movement for Ram Temple, Advani becomes the leader of the campaign.
1986: Faizabad district court order opens gates of structure for prayers, Babri Masjid Action Committee formed.
1989: Then PM Rajiv Gandhi allows ‘shilanyas’ on an undisputed site close to the structure. Case shifts to High Court.
September 5, 1990: Advani launches Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra.
November 1990: Advani arrested in Samastipur, Bihar. BJP withdraws support to VP Singh government at Centre.
December 6, 1992: Kar sevaks demolish disputed structure, makeshift temple placed. PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress government at Centre moves court seeking status quo.
December 1992: Two FIRs filed in Babri demolition case.
Crime number 197 filed against kar sevaks for “actual demolition of mosque”.
Crime number 198: Case against leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar for delivering ‘communal’ speeches before the demolition.
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1993: Government takes over 67 acres of land around the disputed area, approaches SC seeking its opinion on whether the temple ever existed on the disputed site.
October 1993: CBI files composite charge sheet, accused Advani and other BJP leaders of ‘conspiracy’.
1994: Case sent to Lucknow Bench of Allahabad HC. Cases heard again from 1996.
May 4, 2001: HC drops conspiracy charges against Advani and other 13 accused. HC also separates both crimes (number 197 and 198) for a separate hearing.
March 2003: Allahabad HC orders ASI to examine if temple existed at the disputed site.
August 22, 2003: ASI submits reports, finds features of a 10th-century temple beneath the masjid structure.
August 31, 2003: All India Muslim Personal Law Board says it would challenge ASI findings.
May 20, 2010: Allahabad HC absolves SC Advani, others absolved of conspiracy charges as Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order.
July 26, 2010: Allahabad HC reserves judgment, advises parties to solve the issue amicably.
September 23, 2010: Plea for out-of-court settlement reaches SC. Apex court rejects the petition for deferment, allows HC to pronounce the verdict.
September 30, 2010: HC announces the verdict, rules three-way division of disputed area between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the party for ‘Ram Lalla’.
February 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court. Argues that “the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid and the continuous assault on media persons form a single connected transaction and can well be a concerted conspiracy”.
May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute.
December 25, 2014: Oldest litigant in Babri Masjid case passes away. Mohammad Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main litigants from Muslim side in the 1949 Babri Masjid case.
February 26, 2016: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy files plea in SC seeking construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site, SC allows him to intervene in the pending matters.
April 19, 2017: The Supreme Court revives conspiracy charges against L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition cases.
April 6, 2017: The Supreme Court indicated that it will use its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the Babri Masjid demolition related trial in Rae Bareilly against top BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to Lucknow, where a CBI court is hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
March 23, 2017: A Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
March 21, 2017: Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar advised peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably.
March 6, 2017: Supreme Court indicates it may revive conspiracy charge and order a joint trial of crimes 197 and 198.
April 19, 2017: The Supreme Court restores criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid Demolition case. The apex court makes it clear that no adjournment in the case would be given under normal circumstances. No judge, hearing the case, would be transferred. The SC also makes it clear that no case would be filed against Kalyan Singh, who now holds the post of Governor of Rajasthan.
May 21, 2017: A special CBI court in Lucknow begins day-to-day hearing in the Babri Masjid demolition case and grants bail to five VHP leaders named as accused in it. The CBI court had earlier issued summons to six accused persons, of whom five, including Ram Vilas Vedanti (59), appeared in the court and sought bail
May 25, 2017: A special CBI court asks all the accused in the Babri Masjid case including senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, Union minister Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi to appear before it on May 30, 2017. It was expected that the court would frame charges against the accused on May 26.
May 30, 2017: Special CBI court gives bail to accused Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti and others.
(With inputs from agencies)