The Ayodhya land dispute is a political, historical and socio-religious debate in India that has been on for decades. The dispute is focused on a plot of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which is regarded among the Hindus to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram.
According to some beliefs, it was originally the site of a Hindu temple that was demolished to construct a mosque known as Babri Masjid. For their part, Muslims claim that the land was titled to them and Mir Baqi built the mosque on it in 1528 on orders of the first Mughal emperor, Babur.
The modification/demolition of the temple has stood as a topic of controversy. By some accounts, some Muslims in 1949 saw an idol of Ram being placed inside what was then a mosque. Both Hindu and Muslim sides claimed ownership of the site and that led to an eventual lockdown of the area by the government.
On December 17, 1959, Nirmohi Akhara filed a suit seeking possession of the site and claimed to be the custodians of the disputed land. Following this, the Sunni Central Board of Waqf also filed a suit claiming ownership of the site on December 18, 1961.
Later, some Hindu kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, demolished Babri masjid, an action that triggered communal riots all over India, killing at least 2,000 people.
Over the years, the matter has been brought up by both groups in various courts of the country.
On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya should be divided into three parts among the Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara. The petitioners moved the Supreme Court and the apex court stayed the HC verdict.
In 2016, the court started a fresh hearing of the case. In 2017, the SC said that the matter was sensitive and suggested for the case to be settled out of court. It asked stakeholders to hold talks and find an amicable solution. However, no solution was achieved. In 2018, the Supreme Court set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the land dispute case.
On November 9, 2019, a Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi unanimously ruled that the disputed land be given to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas for the construction of a temple, and the Muslim side be compensated with five acres of land at a prominent site in Ayodhya to build a mosque.
In February 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in the Lok Sabha that the government had given its approval to the proposal for "Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Tirtha Kshetra" trust to take care of the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya and other related issues.
Six months later, he visited Ayodhya to lay the foundation stone (a 40 kg silver brick) for the construction of the Ram Mandir at the Ram Janmbhoomi site. Despite the shadow of coronavirus pandemic, the event was extravagant, with as many as 175 invitees.
Babri Masjid Demolition: The Most Comprehensive Video Coverage from 1992
The five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, started day-to-day hearing on the matter from August 6, 2019, and midway through the proceedings, directed the advocates to finish the argument by October 16.
The Supreme Court, on October 16, 2019, concluded hearings in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya and reserved its judgment, which was passed on November 9. The apex court, in a unanimous verdict, gave the ownership of the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya to the Ram Janmabhoomi trust. It ordered that an alternative piece of land in a "suitable" and "prominent" place in Ayodhya should be given to the Muslims to build a mosque. The Court also asked the government to frame a plan within three months and set up a trust, which would construct a temple in Ayodhya.