Categories
Gyaan politics

Meritocracy, Dalits, the Supreme Court and the curious case of the creamy layer.

Let me begin with a question. I will answer it later. Which political ideology first propagated the concept of meritocracy?

Ok, now let’s talk about Dalits. And reservation. Last month, while reacting to a piece by Varun Grover, I wrote how at some point Dalits should split themselves into two groups – rich (minority) and poor (majority), so that the benefit of reservation is not usurped by the richer Dalits. I had also added that it’s only for the Dalits to decide the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of this move.

And today, I read the following in the newspapers.

Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) communities don’t constitute a homogenous group and can be further sub-classified to ensure the benefits of reservation in government jobs and higher education institutions percolate down to weaker sections, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday in a ruling that may have far-reaching political ramifications.

Hindustan Times, 28 Aug 2020

Let me quickly lay down the full context (took me some time to research and read up – if I have misunderstood / misreported something, do let me know; will rectify).

The Creamy Layer

1971 (Indira Gandhi is the PM) – Sattanathan Commission introduces the term “creamy layer” – it refers to those members of a backward class who are highly advanced socially as well as economically and educationally. The Commission proposes that the “creamy layer” be excluded from the reservations (quotas) of civil posts.

1976 – State of Kerala vs N. M. Thomas – “benefits of the reservation shall be snatched away by the top creamy layer of the backward class, thus leaving the weakest among the weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the whole cake”.

1992 – Indra Sawhney vs Union of India – this judgment validates exclusion of creamy layer for OBCs.

The OBCs who meet some defined criteria (like if their parents have held high govt. office etc.) cannot claim reservation benefits. Same, if they fall under “creamy layer” – meaning the family annual income is above a certain defined threshold value.

1993: The “creamy layer” criteria for OBCs is set at an annual family income of more than INR 1 lakh (this would be revised to INR 2.5 lakh in 2004, INR 4.5 lakh in 2008, INR 6 lakh in 2013, and finally to INR 8 lakh in 2017 ). Note that so far, this concept (and the overall Indra Sawhney case) applies only to OBCs and not SC/STs.

2000: Andhra Pradesh State Govt. enacts a law – the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Castes (Rationalisation of Reservations) Act, 2000. This requires sub-dividing the Scheduled Castes into four groups and apportioning reservations separately for each.

2004 – E V Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh – SC strikes down the Rationalisation of Reservation Act 2000 and says that SC/STs form a homogeneous class and therefore cannot be further sub-classified for reservations.

The way I see it, implies that one cannot say some SC/STs are backward / less privileged and others are forward / relatively more privileged (which in turn suggests that it would be counter-intuitive to apply the “creamy layer” concept to SC/STs). The “Chinnaiah case” judgment is critiqued by many, main argument being that it does not reflect the reality. Also if OBCs can be sub-divided (as per the Indra Sawhney case), why shouldn’t the same logic apply to SC/STs? In fact, in 2018, the SC would ask something similar.

2006 – State of Punjab v. Davinder Singh – Punjab government enacts a law requiring 50% of vacancies in the quota for SCs in recruitment to be filled by the members of Balmiki community (rest 50% by those from the Mazhbi community). Davinder Singh, himself a SC person, challenges this law in the Punjab & Haryana high court (citing the Chinnaiha case as per which, one cannot sub-classify SC/STs). The High Court rules in his favour. The State Govt. appeals in the Supreme Court against this High Court judgement.

2009 – While SC is yet to decide on the legality of the Davinder Singh judgment, another state does something similar (sub-classification of SC/STs for reservation benefits). Tamil Nadu enacts a law that reserves 3% of the total seats in educational institutions and state services for the Arunthathiyar community (who constitute nearly 16% of the total SC population in the state, but their representation in most government departments, corporations and education institutions is less than 5%).

2018 – Jarnail Singh v. Lachhmi Narayan Gupta – a five-judge Constitution Bench says that the well-off members of the SC / ST communities (the creamy layer) cannot be granted the benefits of reservation in college admissions and government jobs. This is a stance opposite to that of the Chinnaiah case.

2019: The Modi Govt. files a plea for a review of the Jarnail Singh judgement; it wants a 7 bench Constitution bench to reconsider the decision.

2020 (27 Aug): SC concludes hearing of the 2006 Davinder Singh case (and other related cases / pleas) and requests Chief Justice of India to place the creamy layer applicability in SC / STs matter before a 7 judge bench.

Now some of the above cited judgements talk about the reasons why it makes sense to view Dalits in at least two sub-groups – 1. the really poor / less privileged Dalits and 2. the more privileged ones (those who are not so poor; even when being rich does not mean less discrimination).

But is there a counter-question to this rationale?

What can possible be wrong in applying the creamy layer concept to SC / STs?

From some Dalit activist’s point of view, following seem to be the two main considerations:

  1. The claims that the well-off dalits (creamy layer) are taking away most of the benefits of reservations, leaving out the poorer / more backward dalits is just a hypothesis – there is no data / research / survey to back this. So why is the SC court trying to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist? Although one must realize that they are the not so poor / privilaged Dalits who are saying this. Nobody really knows what the really underprivileged Dalits have to say. Or can we guess?
  2. Doing this will divide the Dalits; it is of extreme importance that the Dalit community continues to be united so that it can fight the Bahmanical / Savarna oppression with full force.

Both these points are valid. But debatable too. In any case, there are no easy answers.

If only we could get some data, it would be easier to make decisions. Without data, imposing the creamy layer concept to SC/STs can always be argued as a political move than a societal-benefit move based on the ‘intuition’ and ‘logic’ of Savarnas (after all, the representation of Dalits in judiciary is minimal, just like in most spheres of power).

I think that claiming this division as a means to weaken the Dalit rights movement is a little far-fetched hypothesis, even when it’s valid from a certain point of view. To me, the potential benefits to the truly underprivileged Dalits, seems more than the perceived weakening of the Dalit movement (am I missing something?)

Also, if a division is such that the overall Dalit community is split in two equally sized groups – then it is one thing. But given that the creamy layer Dalits are in all likelihood just a tiny fraction of the overall Dalit community, will the division really impact the Dalit movement at all? I would want to know how. Data will certainly help.

By the way, if any of you are still under the impression that given that we are in 2020, it’s high time we all should move to ‘meritocracy’ and simply put an end to this never ending reservation thing, I do recommend you think deeper.

The blog that I mentioned in the opening paragraph may give some clues! If you have never lived a Dalit life, it’s easy to fall for the meritocracy myth.

Talking about meritocracy also brings me back to the question I posed in the beginning. Time to answer it – Mohism was the political ideology that first propagated the concept of meritocracy.

Exaltation of the virtuous is the root of government.

Mozi (470-391 BC), China

Although Mozi attracted a large group of followers, he was regarded as an idealist and Mohism was not adopted by the Chinese rulers of the time. In the 20th century, Mozi’s notions of equality were rediscovered by Chinese leaders Sun Yat-Sen and Mao Zedong.

That will be all for this blog. If not already, you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.

Categories
Gyaan history politics

Ayodhya Dispute timeline summary

The first place where I read about the Ayodhya dispute in some detail was L. K. Advani‘s autobiography – “My Country My Life“. This blog began as a summary of what he wrote. And then I read some more on Wikipedia and other online articles (linked in the end) and added additional points / perspectives to create this comprehensive timeline. If I have missed out on anything important or misreported anything, do let me know. (amrit@3MinuteStories.com)


600 BC (Buddha’s time) – Ayodhya (Saketa) is one of the six largest cities of North India. But over the next few centuries, it falls into relative neglect.

During the 11th and 12th century, the Gahadavalasa build several Vishnu temples in Ayodhya, five of which would survive till Aurangzeb’s reign. 

In subsequent years, the cult of Rama develops within Vaishnavism, with Rama being regarded as the foremost avatar of Vishnu. Ayodhya’s importance as a pilgrimage centre grows.

1520s – Mir Baqi (Baqi Tashakandi) – a Mughal army commander under emperor Babur, supposedly builds Babri Masjid, by demolishing a temple (we will soon come to proof / lack of proof).

Babur – India’s first Mughal emperor

No written records of a mosque at the site exist up until 1700’s (hence the use of word ‘supposedly’). Many have believed that the Mosque was built by Aurangzeb (much later than 1520s). Archaeologists acting as observers during the 2003 ASI excavations at the site would also indicate that Babur probably just ordered a new mosque where a smaller older one existed.

There was clearly a Buddhist community here, in the period, roughly from the 2nd century BC to 6th century AD. To us, it looks like this was then abandoned and reoccupied sometime around the 11th-12th century and possibly because there was a Muslim settlement that came up. And they had a small mosque, which was expanded as the community increased, in size and finally a much larger mosque was built by Babar in 1528.

Supriya Varma, Archaelogist appointed as observer to ASI excavations by the Sunni Waqf Board in 2003. Source.

1574Tulsidas moves to Ayodhya (from Varanasi) and begins writing Ramcharit Manas. Surprisingly there is no mention of the mosque in his writing.

1611: An English traveller William Finch visits Ayodhya and writes about the “ruins of the Ranichand [Ramachand] castle and houses”. Even he makes no mention of any mosque.

1672: Lal Das’s Awadh-Vilasa describes the location of birthplace of Ram, but without mentioning a temple (which some claim implies that a mosque probably exists by this time).

1766–1771 Joseph Tieffenthaler visits India and mentions the Mosque in his writings

Emperor Aurangzeb got the fortress called Ramcot demolished and got a Muslim temple, with triple domes, constructed at the same place. Others say that it was constructed by ‘Babor’. Fourteen black stone pillars of 5 span high, which had existed at the site of the fortress, are seen there. Twelve of these pillars now support the interior arcades of the mosque.

Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler, on his visit to Awadh

Tieffenthaler also writes that Hindus worship a square box raised 5 inches above the ground – the “Bedi, i.e., the cradle”, and “the reason for this is that once upon a time, here was a house where Beschan [Vishnu] was born in the form of Ram.”

1777 – Sawai Jai Singh acquires the land of Rama Janmasthan

1813-14: Francis Buchanan (also called Buchanan-Hamilton) does a survey of the Gorakhpur Division on behalf of the British East India Company. Buchanan’s report (never published but available in the British Library archives) states that the Hindus generally attributed destruction of temples “to the furious zeal of Aurangzabe [Aurangzeb]”, but the large mosque at Ayodhya (now known as Babri Masjid) was ascertained to have been built by Babur by “an inscription on its walls.”

DISPUTE PHASE 1: 1853-1885

1853: First recorded incident of Hindu-Muslim violence over the site with Hindus alleging the mosque was built on the site of a razed Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Ram.

1859: British rulers erect a fence and allow Muslims and Hindus to worship in the inner and outer courtyards respectively. This also aligns with the Britishers’ divide & rule policy post the revolt of 1857. By this time, a new chabutra is also built in the Hindu side.

Image via TheWire.in

1862-63: ASI founder surveys Ayodhya – finds no “ancient” structure

Alexander Cunningham, the founder of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), conducts a survey of Ayodhya. He identifies Ayodhya with Sha-chi mentioned in Fa-Hien’s writings, Visakha mentioned in Xuanzang‘s writings and Saketa mentioned in Hindu-Buddhist legends.

Alexander Cunnigham, Founder ASI

According to Cunnigham, Gautama Buddha spent six years at this place.

Cunningham does not find any ‘ancient’ structure in the city. According to him, the existing temples at Ayodhya are of relatively modern origin.

His theory is that when King Vikramaditya of Ujjain visited the city around first century CE, he did construct new temples at the spots mentioned in Ramayana, but by the time Xuanzang visited the city in the 7th century, those temples had “already disappeared” – the city had become a Buddhist centre, with several Buddhist monuments.

1877: The British Govt. opens a door on the northern side of the outer courtyard and passes it to the Hindus to control and manage.

1885 – a court finally intervenes

Some Muslims mount an attack on Hanuman Garhi temple (situated close to the Babri Masjid / Janambhoomi) under the rumours that the Hanuman temple had been built over a mosque. Nawab of Avadh sends his army and saves the temple from getting destroyed.

Mahant Raghubardas appeals to Faizabad High Court to get an order for construction of a temple on Janambhoomi (next to the masjid) – where the chabutra is.

A judgement given within a year says “it is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as the event occurred 356 years ago it is too late now to agree with the grievances. All that can be done is to maintain the party in status quo”.

DISPUTE PHASE II: 1934 till the 60’s (a local issue)

1934: Communal violence erupts, many die and the mosque is damaged. Nirmohi Akhara, a sect that claimed to have been worshipping Lord Ram at his ‘birthplace’ since the 1400s is involved in the clashes and is made to pay for the mosque repairs.

The gate is locked (and would continue to remain locked till 1950).

Soon thereafter, Muslims stop using the site as a mosque or for offering prayers (true till date); Hindus continue to worship (darshan from outside the gate).

1946: An offshoot of the Hindu Mahasabha called Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha (ABRM) starts an agitation for the possession of the site. Given that most of India is busy with the anytime-now independence from Britishers, this is definitely not a “national news” sort of thing at this point of time.

1947 – Announcement of Somnath temple resurrection by Sardar Patel sets the precedent for Govt. intervening in temple constructions.

By 1947 end, Indian Govt. takes over the princely state of Junagadh (Nawab of Junagadh escapes to Pakistan). Four days later Sardar Patel declares that Somnath temple (stood destroyed since 1706) will be rebuilt. Moulana Abul Kalam Azad suggests handing the site over to ASI. Patel refuses. Mahatma Gandhi says he is fine as long as money for construction doesn’t come from GoI. Nehru is not okay – he views this as an act as “Hindu revivalism”.

1949 – beginning of the modern dispute at Ayodhya

Sant Digvijay Nath of Gorakhnath Math joins the ABRM (Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha founded three years earlier). He organizes a 9-day continuous recitation of Ramcharit Manas. At the end of the recitation, Hindu activists break into the mosque and place idols of Rama and Sita inside. This was already anticipated.

The then Faizabad superintendent of police (SP) Kripal Singh had written a latter to the DM – KKK Nayar a month before the “appearance” of the idol at the site.

There is a strong rumor that on purnamashi the Hindus will try to force entry into the mosque with the object of installing a deity.

Kripal Singh’s letter to Nayar, a month before the break-in.

Nair acts surprised!

People are led to believe that the idols have ‘miraculously’ appeared inside the mosque. One of the mahants who did this, admits to doing so in the Ram ke Nam documentary shot and made in the early 90s (before the mosque was illegally demolished by kar sevaks).

Nayar (the DM ) and his fellow local official Guru Dutt Singh do not act to remove the idols despite instructions from then Chief Secretary Bhagwan Sahay and Inspector General of Police BN Lahiri.

Nayar in fact allows daily worship to take place (he would later join the Jan Sangh).

Nehru sends a telegram to UP CM Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant “Dangerous example is being set there which will have bad consequences”.

Sardar Patel soon writes a letter to Pant too – “such matters can only be resolved peacefully if we take the wiling consent of the Muslim community with us. There can be no question of resolving such disputes by force”.

The state govt. locks the complex gate.

1950: The start of the court case in independent India

Gopal Singh Visharad – a Hindu Mahasabha leader, files suit in Faizabad city court seeking exclusive rights to perform prayers for Ram Lalla. He also seeks judicial restraint on the removal of idols. What he doesn’t ask for is any right to “title of the land” (which would be first claimed only in 1959 by Nirmohi Akhara – and then later claimed two more times in subsequent years).

Mahant Paramahans Ramchandra Das files another suit to continue with the Hindu prayers and keeping the Ram idols at the Babri majid.

This same year, Sardar Patel dies and K. M. Munshi (his confidante and a Union Minister) takes over the responsibility of getting Somnath temple built in spite of severe opposition from Nehru (who finds it easy to dominate now with Sardar gone). Once the temple is constructed, the President of India – Dr. Rajendra Prasad inaugurates it. The precedent of state involvement in a so called “secular” country is set (you can read my detailed blog on the myth of secularism in India).

1955: the Allahabad High Court upholds unrestricted right to worship for Hindus but since the “title of the property” issue is not yet resolved, only a priest is allowed to enter the locked gates to perform prayers (regular pilgrims to Ayodhya cannot).

From this point onward, till the 80s – the nation at large moves on and the Ayodhya issue exists only as a local issue – not a national one – until Rajiv Gandhi would bring it back to limelight.

1959: Nirmohi Akhara files suit seeking transfer of disputed site – this is the beginning of the “land title dispute” that would get resolved only after sixty years by the Supreme Court of India.

They claim that their mahant (chief priest) and sarbrahakar (administrator) have been managing the site and been responsible for prayers to Lord Ram there since their founding in the middle ages – what is known as ‘shebaitship’.

1961: Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Board of Waqf files suit seeking possession of Babri mosque site (so this is now the second claim for land title). They also make a plea for the removal of Ram idols from the Mosque. They claim that Muslims had been worshipping till 1949 (when the idols were placed inside).

DISPUTE PHASE III: 1980s onwards – from local to national

1984: First Dharm sansad in Delhi resolves to “liberate” the birthplace of Ram through a peaceful mass movement. Ramjanmabhoomi Muktiyanja Samiti (RMS) is formed. It brings many Hindu religious leaders together for a “common goal”. A mass awareness yatra is undertaken from Bihar (Sitamarhi) to Ayodhya – demanding opening of locks for everybody. Later that year Indira Gandhi is assassinated and Rajiv Gandhi becomes the new PM. Ayodhya issue is still a local issue and not a national one.

1986 – Rajiv Gandhi manages to bring back Ayodhya in the national limelight

A conference of Hindu religious leaders resolves to break open the locks on Mahashivratri. But the state government decides to open the locks and to that effect gets favourable court order (from Faizabad District Court).

The Allahabad High Court orders the opening of the main gate and restoring of the site in full to the Hindus.

Rajiv Gandhi publicizes this “achievement” and makes the so far “local issue”, a national thing.

Rajiv Gandhi, the sixth PM of India

Earlier in the year, Rajiv Gandhi was heavily criticized for surrendering to an unfair Muslim pressure (the Shah Bano case). So this over-publicity to opening of locks is most likely a way for him to undo that image in the public.

1989: VHP (Vishwa Hindu Prasishad – formed in 1964) plans to carry Ram shilas from all over the country to Ayodhya and perform shilanyas of the temple. BJP openly supports VHP (the first time a leading political party did so).

All cases related to the title suit of the disputed site, are transferred to the Allahabd High Court.

Towards the end of the year, both Rajiv Gandhi and the state govt under Vir Bahadur Singh allow the shilanyas, justifying by stating that the site of the shilanyas is “adjacent” to the disputed site. In fact Rajiv Gandhi had kickstarted his Lok Sabha election campaign from Ayodhya this year.

The shialanyas takes place.

Congress loses election by year end and V. P. Singh becomes the new Prime Minister (Janta Dal). It’s a hung government with outside support of BJP.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh, India’s 7th Prime Minister

Some Muslims form All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) – the first national level Muslim organization to agitate for a change in Allahabad High Court order from 1950s.

1989 – the third title suit is filed by Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman (the god’s idol, also known as Ram Lalla Virajman) and Sri Ram Janmabhoomi (the birthplace). These deities are represented by their ‘next friend’, retired judge Deoki Nandan Agarwala, associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Indian law has long recognised that deities can be considered legal persons, and so this suit is included without batting any eyelids.

Allahabad High court clubs all the threee title cases into one – hearing would begin only in 1993 and would go on till 2002 (Godhra).

1990 – the year of the Rath Yatra

Saints associated with Ram Janambhoomi decide to resume Kar Seva. Prime Minister V. P. Singh asks them to give him four months time to solve the problem. 

V. P. Singh Govt. comes up with a resolution formula: the Babri masjid and the site can be handed over to a new Hindu trust on the condition that it would build the Ram temple without disturbing the Babri masjid. Also, a wall would be constructed between the temple and the adjusted structure.

To take this idea ahead, Krishan Kant, the then Governor of AP (would later become India’s VP) arranges meeting between Swami Jayendra Swaraswati of Kamchi Kamakoti Math and Ali Mian, a Muslim theologian from UP.

In the mean time Advani makes a statement warning the PM – “any attempt to scuttle the Kar seva would lead to the greatest mass movement independent India has eve seen”.

Four months get over, no resolution comes and VHP sets up a date for Kar Seva.

“Gains of victory needed to  be consolidated” – Advani says in his autobiography (victory = election victory).

Advani, with help of Pramod Mahajan decides to do a Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in a way that Advani would reach Ayodhya on the same day as the date of Kar seva (30 Oct 1990). The rath is basically a decorated vehicle. In his autobiography, Advani explains it was Pramod Mahajan who suggested this idea of a “rath” after Advani shared with him that he was contemplating undertaking a pad-yatra. Narendra Modi is another key organizer (who Advani acknowledges in his autobiography).

Rath Yatra begins. It attracts a lot of attention, both on ground and in press (do the check out the Ram Ke Naam documentary that I shared earlier, to see some visuals from the time).

‘Jo Hindu ki baat karega, vahi desh pe raj karega’. I immediately stood up to affirm that BJP represents every citizen of India irrespective of whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Prasi or any other faith.

L. K. Advani, My country my life

There is no major communal violence in the Rath Yatra route itself. But there are many instances of riots in various other parts of the country.

In the mean time, V. P. Singh Govt is considering a new resolution formula – the central Govt can acquire both ~70 acres of undisputed land and ~2.5 acres of disputed land of the proposed temple complex, then hand over the undisputed land to Kar Sevaks, retain with it the masjid (in as-is condition) + 30 ft area around the masjid, and ask Supreme Court to settle the disputed land area (2.5 acres) – on which the masjid stands.

The SC would be asked to consider its judgment based on whether a temple (not necessarily Ram temple) ever existed where the masjid now exists. As per Advani, V. P. singh accepts this proposal at first. Central govt. decides to work on an ordinance to this effect. V. P. Singh’s Govt. even holds a press conference to announce about this ordinance. But within a day, the Govt. withdraws the ordinance. Apparently, Mulayam Singh Yadav (then CM of U.P) opposed this formula. As a result, BJP withdraws support to V. P. Singh Govt.

“Tens and thousands of devotees from all over country started to arrive in Ayodhya for the scheduled Kar Seva” – Advani.

Towards the last phase of the Yatra, Lalu Yadav, the CM of Bihar arrests Advani. He is released after 5 weeks.

Kar Seva happens in Ayodhya. Police fires at devotees. Some Kar sevaks climb atop the mosque to destroy it but are unsuccessful. 50+ people die.

V. P. Singh loses Vote of Confidence in Parliament and Chandrashekhar becomes the new PM. “He made the most sincere and consistent efforts to final  negotiated solution to the problem” – Advani.

New negotiations with AIBMAC begin. As per Advani, they initially agree for masjid relocation if it can be proved that a temple existed there earlier. But they later change their condition – they would agree for relocation only when it can be proved that there was specifically a “Ram temple” and not just any temple.

1991 – from Kalyan Singh’s land acquisition to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination

Kalyan Singh of BJP becomes the CM of UP. Immediately after becoming the CM, he, with his colleagues, “visited Ayodhya and took a vow to construct Ram temple there itslef”, as per CBI chargesheet to be filed later.

Later that year, the state government of Kalyan Singh acquires 2.77 acres of land around the Masjid complex under a Land Acquisition Act for the purpose of “promoting tourism”.

This acquired land is not disputed – it includes the spot where Rajiv Gandhi had allowed shilanyas to be performed in 1989). 80% of this 2.77 acres has in fact been acquired from VHP (who had over time acquired the land by “gift” or purchase from original land-owners). The Ram ke Nam documentary also indicates the possibility of corruption and fraud in the entire VHP land purchase business (unaccounted for sources of money).

AIBMAC challenges the land acquisition in the Allahabad High Court – the court asks the Govt. to not make any permanent structure of the land.

Chandrashekhar’s Govt. falls.

Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated.

Congress comes back to power in the centre and PV Narasimha Rao is the new PM.

A 17 day kar seva takes place in Ayodhya. PM invites the sants for discussion. “He assured them he expected the problem to be solved within four months and requested them to discontinue the kar seva” – Advani.

The sants stop the kar seva. But no resolution happens in four months. The sants restart the kar seva.

1992 – the year the Babri Masjid is demolished by Kar Sevaks

In July 1992, the Sangh Parivar lays the foundation for the proposed Ram temple by digging around the Babri Masjid and filling the area with 10-foot thick layer of reinforced cement concrete. This is in spite of the fact that the year before Allahabad High Court had asked the State Govt. to not make any permanent structure of the land.

Kalyan Singh’s government calls it a “platform” for performing bhajans while the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) declares it as the foundation for Ram temple.

Allahabad High Court begins hearing on the title dispute.

In the mean time in Delhi, Kamal Nath (working for PM) proposes to Advani a new solution. Central Govt. can acquire land needed to build Ram Temple and pass it to RJB Nyas on the condition that mosque not be touched till a judicial verdict. Advani agrees. Advani later realizes that Kamal Nath doesn’t have PM Narasimha Raos’ approval on this solution.

Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi start a new yatra (one starting from Varanasi, another from Mathura). In the mean time over 1 lakh “Ram Bhakts” have arrived in Ayodhya.

06 Dec 1992: Many Kar sevaks climb atop the Babri Masjid and bring it down. Kalyan Singh resigns and President’s rule is imposed by evening. Kar sevaks continue building a make shift temple over the night and safely place the idols inside the make shift temple.

Advani leaves Ayodhya for Lucknow.

Within half an hour of our departure from Ayodhya, our car was stopped by the police. On seeing that the car carried Pramod Mahajan and me, a senior officer of the UP Govt. walked up to us said ‘Advaniji, kuch bacha to nahi na? Bilkul saaf kar diya na’

Those who took Hindu concerns and aspirations for granted, and tried to thwart them through an endless process of political machinations and judicial delays, got an answer which they will hopefully not forget.

Advani in his autobiography.

More than 2,000 people are killed in the riots following the demolition. Riots break out in many major Indian cities including Mumbai, Bhopal, Delhi and Hyderabad.

PM charges the leaders of the temple movement with conspiracy, criminal intent and perfidy. Advani claims the demolition was not pre-planned (but if you watch the interviews and the slogans as documented in the Ram ke Naam documentary that was shot before the demolition, the threat to demolition is real and talked about by many).

Govt. orders arrest of the top leaders including Advani, imposes ban on VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Jamait-e-Islami hind and the Islamic Sevak Sangh and sets up Liberhan Commission to enquire into the incident.

The best compilation of all the video footage from around the demolition time that I have found on the internet.

1993: Liberhan Commission begins its investigation after 3 months of being setup (which will go on for 17 years).

In the meantime, central Govt. releases a White Paper giving official version of the Ayodhya events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid. It holds Kalyan Singh’s govt responsible for it because of his instruction to the police ‘not to use force’.

Allahabad High Court allows pilgrims to have darshan of Ram Lalla at the makeshift temple.

In his appearance before the Liberhan Commission, Narsimha Rao is asked why the Centre did not request the Allahabad High Court for an early verdict on the UP Govt’s land acquisition matter. His reply was – “How could the Central Govt. make any sure request even if it wanted to , when it was not a party to the proceedings before the Allahabad High Court.

L. K. Advani from his Autobiography

The President of India orders acquisition of some land parcel around the disputed site and refers the matter to the Supreme Court.

PM Vajpayee / CM Modi

2001: Dharam Sansad at the Maha Kumbh held at Prayag adopts a resolution urging removal of “all hurdles” in the way by 12 March 2002 – the day of Mahashivaratri.

2002: Leaders of the temple movement begin a 100 day purnaahuti yagna in Ayodhya. Advani is the home minister (Vajpayee the PM). Three days later, 58 persons, many kar sevaks die by fire in train in Godhra. Hindu Muslim riots ensue, many die – under the governance of CM Narendra Modi.

Allahabad High Court begins the title dispute hearing.

Supreme Court prohibits religious activity of any kind by anyone either symbolic or actual and also forbids the Govt. of India from handing over any part of the acquired land to anyone.

2003 – the year of the ASI findings

By the order of the High Court, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is asked to conduct an in-depth study and an excavation to ascertain whether the type of structure that was beneath the rubble indicates definite proof of a temple under the mosque.

The remnants are found to have more resemblance to a Shiva temple. In the words of ASI researchers, they discover “distinctive features associated with… temples of north India”. Their conclusion would later be questioned by the archaeologists who are observers on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, during the excavation.

ASI offers no explanation for discovery of animal bones and glazed pottery at the site during excavation.

Udit Raj’s Buddha Education Foundation would claim later that the structure excavated by ASI was a Buddhist stupa, destroyed during and after the Muslim invasion of India.

2004: Manmohan Singh becomes the PM

2005: The make shift temple is attacked by five Lashkar-e-taiba terrorists. They are all shot dead.

2009: The Liberhan Commission finally submits its report after 17 years

The Commission indicts 68 people for the demolition, including a number of BJP leaders (Advani, Vajpayee, Murali Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharathi, Kalyan Singh). The report states that the then CM Kalyan Singh had appointed officers to the area who were less likely to act to prevent the demolition.

At the site of the then disputed temple, the Uttar Pradesh police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were placed outside the structure, while the Central Reserve Police Force was inside. On the very first evening, I spotted a PAC constable shouting “Jai Shri Ram” slogans along with kar sevaks barely a few metres away from the disputed structure.

As I moved through the holy town wearing a two-day stubble and soiled clothes, I interacted with many PAC men. Always, I was treated with respect, even deference. One night some kar sevaks and I spent hours chatting with a group of PAC personnel. “We are solidly behind you. Don’t worry,” said a policeman. “If we are ordered on December 6 to attack you, we will lay down our arms and join you,” reassured another. “Come what may, we will force the paramilitary to surrender,” said a third.

Sanjay Kaw – The Asian Age (source)

The LC report also states that the demolition was “neither spontaneous nor unplanned”.

2010: the first verdict

Two archeologists – Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon who were observers during the excavation on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, claim that the ASI violated ethical codes and procedures during the excavation. In a paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), they challenge the methods used in collecting evidence and its interpretation. They also tell the Allahabad High Court that the excavation did not find anything that supported ASI’s conclusion. You can read more about the contradictions to ASI findings here.

The Allahabad High Court pronounces its verdict on four title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute – land to be divided into three equal parts to Ram Lalla (represented by Hindu Maha Sabha), Sunni Wakf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.

The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and Sunni Waqf Board move to the Supreme Court of India, challenging part of the Allahabad High Court’s verdict.

2011: Supreme Court of India stays the High Court order and says that status quo will remain. 

2017: a special CBI court frames criminal conspiracy charges against Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, and several others.

2019 – the final verdict

SC forms a 3 member mediation panel headed by former SC judge FMI Kalifulla. The panel fails to resolve the dispute. A 5-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, of Supreme Court then starts the final hearing on the case.

Sixty years after the start of the land title hearing in Indian courts, a final verdict is given.

SC orders the disputed land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram temple. It also orders the government to give 5 acres of land inside Ayodhya city limits to the Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque.

2020 – the year of the corona virus


Additional sources:

Full text of the 2019 Supreme Court verdict

https://www.firstpost.com/india/ayodhya-dispute-kkk-nayar-the-district-magistrate-accused-of-dereliction-of-duty-in-faizabad-who-helped-hindus-reclaim-land-of-their-god-7603821.html

https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/timeline-of-the-ayodhya-dispute/story-OOP9CVxtWRkW2Y4jCh4RQM.html

https://www.thequint.com/explainers/ayodhya-dispute-supreme-court-arguments-of-hindu-muslim-parties-what-to-expect-verdict