Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992 by right wing Hindu activists
New Delhi: The final hearing over the disputed Ayodhya site, claimed by Hindus and Muslims, will begin on February 8 next year by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court. The decision came out a day ahead of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 that was followed by communal riots in which around 2,000 people were killed. The Sunni board representative argued in the court today that the hearing must be deferred as building a Ram temple at the disputed site is a part of the ruling BJP's manifesto. To this, the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, "We are shocked and surprised," adding that the judges were "not bothered about what's happening outside."
Here are top 10 things to help understand the Ayodhya Ram Temple-Babri Masjid Issue
The 16th-century Babri Majid was razed to the ground in on December 6, 1992 by thousands of right-wing volunteers or karsewaks, claiming it was built after demolishing a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram.
In April 2002, a 3-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court began hearings to determine who owned the site.
The high court delivered its ruling in 2010, holding that two-thirds of 2.77 acres area should be allotted to two Hindu organisations, Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla; and the remainder to the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh.
Both Hindu and Muslim organisations involved in the dispute were unhappy with the decision and filed appeals against it to the Supreme Court which stayed the high court decision in 2011. In March this year, the top court suggested that the dispute was best resolved through negotiations and not a judicial verdict.
In its 2017 Uttar Pradesh election manifesto, the BJP said it "will explore all possibilities within the purview of the Constitution to construct a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya". The BJP returned to power in UP after 15 years. Newly appointed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked his officials to begin work on implementation of the poll promise.
In May this year, senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Union Minister Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi faced a court in Lucknow in the demolition case and were charged with criminal conspiracy. They had argued that they had no role in the demolition and had tried to stop it, but their discharge petition was rejected.
In August, the Supreme Court judges said they will start final hearings in the case on December 5 and asked for all relevant documents to be translated by the Uttar Pradesh government into English within the next three months.
In November, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar, offered to mediate in the Ayodhya dispute and said that he is meeting all the stakeholders and discussing the issue with them to find a solution. He also met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. "As far as the Ayodhya issue is concerned, Yogi Adityanath's stand is very clear. We welcome any settlement and will honour the decision of the court," a senior Uttar Pradesh government official said after the chief minister's meeting with Sri Sri Ravishankar.
Last month, the Shia Waqf Board submitted a draft proposal in the Supreme Court that sought an amicable resolution of the Ayodhya issue and envisaged the construction of a 'Masjid-e-Aman' in Lucknow's Hussainabad area. However, Sunni Muslim organisations have not backed the offer.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological parent, chief Mohan Bhagwat last month made a strong and passionate pitch for building the Ram Temple on the disputed site at Ayodhya, saying only the temple should come up there and not any other structure."Ram Mandir only will be constructed and nothing else. It will be constructed there only (what is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram)," Mr Bhagwat said.