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Ayodhya Part 7: Demolition of the Disputed Structure

The Quint’s seven part docu series to mark 23 years of the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid incident.

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Ayodhya Part 7: Demolition of the Disputed Structure
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(This article was originally uploaded on 10 December 2015. To mark 30 years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, we are republishing this from The Quint's archives.)

The Quint retraces the events that led to the demolition of the disputed structure in this seven-part documentary series.

1991 was an incredible year for the BJP. In its third General Election, the party won 119 seats. And while the Congress still formed the government with PV Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister, the BJP was increasing its footprints across India.

That year, the BJP assumed power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and most pertinently in Uttar Pradesh.

The party credited its electoral success to its promise of a ‘Ram Rajya’ and considered its mandate as an endorsement for rebuilding the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

Advani’s 1990 Rath Yatra was instrumental in mobilising people against the VP Singh government’s Mandal politics, and creating awareness about the demand for a Ram Temple. (Illustration: Hardeep Singh)

On July 10, 1990 the Tourism Department of the Uttar Pradesh government headed by Kalyan Singh acquired 2.77 acre land in front of the disputed property to “promote tourism and provide amenities to visitors”.

The land was handed over to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas on lease for the construction of a temple for a consideration of one rupee.

Kalyan Singh (Centre) warned the state police not to use force against the kar sevaks who continued to make structural changes to the buildings located in the 2.77 acre acquired by his government for “tourist activities”. (Photo: Reuters)

The High Court that had earlier permitted the acquisition, and allowed temporary construction, came down hard on the Kalyan Singh government after permanent structural changes were made to temples located in the disputed 2.77 acre between September-October 1991.

Later, a three-member commission appointed by the Supreme Court deemed the acquisition as “extraneous and for mala fide intentions” after it found a concrete platform had been constructed inside the premises.

(Graphic Courtesy: Rahul Gupta)

The Countdown

In June 1992, the Ram Janmabhomi Nyas requested the state government’s permission to observe Chaturmas (four holy months of the Hindus), and to conduct kar seva on July 9.

Swami Satyanandi, Mahant Nritya Gopal Dass, Paramhans Ramchandra Das and Mahant Avaidyanath were at the forefront of mobilising sadhus, sants, devotees and kar sevaks.

Ramchandra Das Paramhans blesses a symbolic stone to be used in the construction of the Ram Mandir. The firebrand sadhu died in 2003 at the age of 93. (Photo: Reuters)

From the first week of July, lakhs of people started arriving in Ayodhya to be part of the Chaturmas ceremony, and for the construction of a platform adjacent to the 2.77 acre area acquired by the UP government, next to the disputed structure.

The platform was being raised despite a High Court ban. The security agencies were unable to evict the kar sevaks because of strict instructions from the Kalyan Singh government against the use of force. The ball was in the Prime Minister’s court.

Models of the proposed Ram Temple were taken to religious conventions around the country by the VHP. (Photo: Reuters)

On July 21, 1992 PV Narasimha Rao asked the RSS and VHP to convince the sadhus to stop the construction, but no one owned up to the responsibility, forcing the Centre to directly engage with the religious leaders.

Pressure from the Babri Masjid Action Committee and fears of a communal backlash forced Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao to intervene and seek a suspension of the kar seva in July 1992. (Photo: Reuters)

On July 23, 1992 religious leaders flew down to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister. They agreed to stop the construction for three months within which Narasimha Rao promised to find a solution.

The deadline lapsed without any result.

On October 29-30, 1992 the VHP organised a Dharam Sansad and decided to resume the kar seva on December 6, 1992.

The Babri Masjid in early 1900. (Photo Courtesy: The British Library Board)

The Demolition

By December 6, 1992 at least 2,00,000 kar sevaks had arrived in Ayodhya from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and UP. Never before had the RSS, VHP, or the Bajrang Dal managed to put up such a big attendance.

6 AM: A steady stream of journalists and kar sevaks arrives at the disputed structure, RSS cadres wearing arm bands cordon the boundary to limit the symbolic kar seva to the platform that had been raised in defiance of the Court’s orders. The plan was for kar sevaks to bring water and sand from the Sarayu river and scrub the platform clean and to perform prayers.

The symbolic kar seva entailed taking water and mud from the Sarayu river and clean the platform constructed illegally near the disputed structure. (Photo: The Quint)

10:00 AM: Senior BJP leaders like LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who had concluded their rath yatras after travelling within UP to mobilise support for the kar seva arrive at the platform to review the arrangements.

10:30 AM: The senior BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders move to the dais on the roof of the Ram Katha Kunj, about 200 metres away.

The route to the disputed land in Ayodhya is heavily barricaded. (Photo: Reuters)

11 AM: The cleaning commences and the sadhus begin chanting prayers. Within minutes, the first of the several wooden barriers that had been set up overnight are breached by kar sevaks wearing bright yellow bands. The RSS volunteers are seen trying to stop the angry kar sevaks from barging into the cordoned area. A long loud whistle is heard and kar sevaks are seen moving towards the breach point. The slogan –“Mandir yaheen banayenge” can be heard.

Once the barrier was broken, there was no stopping the kar sevaks from storming the disputed structure. (Photo: The Quint)

11:15 AM: At the platform, more kar sevaks barge into the cordoned area and move towards the barbed wire cordon protecting the disputed structure from the area in which the prayers are on. PAC personnel and RSS cadres try and stop the kar sevaks ,but are forced to take cover after the crowds outside start pelting stones.

Kar sevaks wave saffron flags after climbing on top of one of the three domes of the Babri Masjid. (Photo: The Quint)

11: 30 AM: A teenager scales the protective steel railings and jumps through the barbed wires. Within minutes, he is seen on top of one of the smaller domes of the disputed structure. With the kar sevaks’ attack becoming fiercer, the armed police have no option but to run for cover. Hundreds of kar sevaks are seen moving towards the disputed structure with ropes, hammers, pickaxes and sickles.

While some climbed the domes, hundreds of other kar sevaks started attacking the base of the structure. (Photo: The Quint)

11:45 AM: Another loud whistle is heard and a concerted attack begins on journalists who can be identified with prominent pink badges given to them by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisers a day earlier. Cameras are smashed to the ground, other recording devices, pens and notebooks are snatched away. Those who tried to resist are physically attacked.

A frenzied mob took down the 16the century disputed structure within five hours on December 6, 1992. (Photo: The Quint)

12 PM: When the onslaught looks inevitable, paramilitary forces remove Lord Ram’s idols from the sanctum sanctorum. All three domes of the structure are drowned in angry kar sevaks who hammer away at the concrete.

12:30 PM: Senior leaders like Advani make a feeble attempt to convince the kar sevaks to stop, but his pleas go unheard.

2 PM: The first dome collapses. About 25 kar sevaks are buried under the concrete and the dust cloud. They are extricated immediately and rushed to the hospital.

3:30 PM: The second dome gives way.

The entire area was enveloped in dust as each of the three domes came down. (Photo: The Quint)

5 PM: The main dome collapses with a loud thud. In the distance, smoke can be seen billowing from houses belonging to Muslims. Angry kar sevaks had gone on a rampage after the demolition.

6 PM: Water is pumped into a crude mud tank-like structure. Kar sevaks begin mixing cement and laying a staircase to the sanctum sanctorum. A tent is pitched and Ram Lalla’s idols are brought back.


The Aftermath

The structure was demolished, but the dispute remained unresolved. The Liberhan Commission constituted by the Centre was to submit its report within three months. But the one-man commission was able to submit his report only seventeen years later, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 30, 2009.

Justice MS Liberhan submits the one-man Commission report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 30, 2009. (Photo: PTI)

It held 68 people culpable, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Atal Bihari Vajpaye and then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh.

A year later, on October 1, 2010, the Allahabad High Court pronounced its verdict in the sixty-year old case. The three-judge bench – Justice S U Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice D V Sharma – divided the disputed land in three parts between all three litigants – one-third for the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third for the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the party for ‘Ram Lalla’.

Rapid Action Force personnel on patrol in Ayodhya on the day the High Court pronounced its verdict. (Photo: Reuters)

Various groups like the Nirmohi Akhara, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Jamait Ulama-I-Hind and Sunni Central Wakf Board appealed the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

In May 2011, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on not just the disputed 2.77 acre, but the entire 67 acre area. In its observation, the Supreme Court said:

This is very strange and surprising. Nobody has prayed for partition of the area. The Allahabad High Court has given a new relief which was not sought by anybody.
No untoward incident was reported on the 23rd anniversary of the demolition of the disputed structure. (Photo: The Quint)

Current Status

Records dating back to the 16th century and other documents written in Persian, Urdu and several other languages are being translated into English. But Justice TS Thakur, now the new Chief Justice of India has said the matter could come up for hearing in the next ten years or so, because of the sheer backlog of cases at the Apex Court.

Someday or the other, the case (civil appeal) will be heard. Even after 10 or 15 years whenever matter comes up, one has to proceed in methodical manner. We don’t have any policy (particular line of opinion) in the case,” Justice Thakur had observed. The apex court has currently over 55,000 pending cases.
Justice TS Thakur, Chief Justice of India
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