Editor's note: This article was originally published on 10 November, 2019, after the Supreme Court allowed the construction of a temple at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood in Ayodhya. The article is being republished after a special CBI court acquitted all the 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, saying that the demolition was not pre-planned.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all the 32 accused in the Babri Masjid Demolition case nearly 28 years after the mosque was razed by a mob in Uttar Pradesh.
The court acquitted the accused, which included BJP veterans LK Advani and MM Joshi, Union minister Uma Bharati and then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, among others, as the evidence against them was not strong enough. It also observed that the Babri Mosque demolition incident "was not pre-planned".
The court observed that the people who demolished the mosque were "anti-national elements". The accused people were, in fact, trying to control the crowd, the judgement added, reported News18.
The CBI, which went into the case, produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 had died during the course of the trial.
Twenty-six out of the 32 accused were present in the special court when the judgment was pronounced. Advani (92), Joshi (86), Bharti (61), Singh (88), Nritya Gopal Das, and Satish Pradhan were not present in court and attended proceedings via video conferencing on Wednesday.
The CBI court verdict has come just months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for a Ram temple after the November 2019 Supreme Court verdict which paved the way for the construction of the Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid.
The Supreme Court on November, 2019, settled the seven-decade-long Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute with the historic verdict of awarding a Hindu group the ownership of a centuries-old religious site. It ordered the allotment of an alternative piece of five acres of land to the Muslims for a mosque.
The core of Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute lies in the belief that Lord Ram was born in a room located under what was the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The masjid was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur in the 16th century before its demolition by kar sevaks on 6 December, 1992.
Following is the timeline of events leading up to the special CBI court acquitting all the 32 accused in the planning the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992.
30 September, 2020: Special Judge S K Yadav delivers judgment in the mosque demolition case, all accused acquitted.
22 August, 2020: Supreme Court extends by a month the deadline for completion of trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
5 August, 2020: Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes part in 'Bhoomi Poojan' ceremony for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
4 August, 2020: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday said that the COVID-19 protocol will be strictly followed during the bhoomi pujan ceremony for Ram temple and only those invited should come.
4 August, 2020: Iqbal Ansari, who was a litigant in the Ayodhya land dispute case, has decided to gift a 'Ram nami' stole and a copy of the Ramcharitmanas to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he attends the bhoomi pujan ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday.
3 August, 2020: Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha formally handed over the certified copy of five-acre land to the Sunni Waqf Board, as mandated by the Supreme Court for the construction of Babri mosque.
A delegation of the newly formed Masjid Trust " Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation led by its president Zufar Faruqi and the Board's Chief Executive Officer Sayyad Mohammad Shoib met Ayodhya DM Anuj Kumar Jha at the latter's residence.
30 July, 2020: The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board formed a 15-member-trust to look after the construction of a mosque on five acres of land allotted by the Supreme Court.
Zufar Ahmed Faruqi, chairman the board " which was the main Muslim litigant in the title suit " said the trust was named as Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation, which will ensure the development of the allocated land in Dhannipur village in Ayodhya.
26 July, 2020: More than five months after its announcement, the trust meant to construct a mosque in Ayodhya following the Supreme Court verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit, is yet to be constituted.
24 February, 2020: The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board decided to accept the five acres allotted to it by the state government for building a mosque in Dhannipur village in Sohawal tehsil of Ayodhya, around 25 km from the site where the Babri Masjid had stood.
The board, which was the main litigant in the case, also announced the formation of a trust to look after the construction of the mosque as well as an Indo-Islamic Centre, a grand hospital and a public library on the land.
12 December, 2019: The Supreme Court dismissed a batch of petitions seeking review of its Ayodhya land dispute case verdict. The top court, which took these review pleas for consideration in-chamber, rejected them after finding no merit.
There were 18 review petitions, out of which nine have been filed by parties who were part of the earlier litigation and the other nine were filed by "third parties".
6 December, 2019: Four review petitions supported by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was filed on 6 December, 2019, against the Supreme Court's Ram-Janmabhoombh-Babri-Masjid land title dispute verdict.
The review petitions were filed by Maulana Mufti Hasbullah, Mohd Umar, Maulana Mahfoozur Rehman and Mishbahuddin.
Challenging the ruling, the petitioners argued that Hindus never had exclusive possession of the entire site. They added that the apex court's judgement had, in fact, given directions to clear the existing structure that remains after the Babri Masjid was demolished at the site in December, 1992.
3 December, 2019: Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for Muslim petitioners in the landmark Ayodhya temple-mosque case, posted on Facebook that he had been sacked unceremoniously by the group Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind over reasons he described as "total nonsense".
Reflecting a rift within, however, other Muslim petitioners asserted that Rajeev Dhavan remained their lawyer and had been removed only by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind.
2 December, 2019: Maulana Syed Ashhad Rashidi, a legal heir of original Ayodhya land dispute litigant, had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its ruling in favour of the Ram temple at the disputed site. This was the first review petition filed by a Muslim party against the verdict.
Rashidi said the judgment by the five-judge bench had acknowledged "few of the several illegalities" committed by the Hindu Parties but "proceeded to condone the said illegal acts and awarded the disputed site to the very party which based its claims on nothing but a series of illegal acts".
November 2019: On 9 November, the Supreme Court granted the entire 2.77 acre of disputed land in Ayodhya to deity Ram Lalla. The possession of land will remain with the Central government receiver until a trust, as mandated by the court, is formed. The Supreme Court also directed the Centre and Uttar Pradesh govt to allot 5 acre land to the Muslims at a prominent place for building mosque.
August 2019: The mediation panel failed to reach an amicable settlement. The top court began hearing the case on 6 August.
2018: In February, Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board questioned the court about the hurry and requested that the hearing to be put off till July 2019. In September, the Supreme Court declined to refer the case to a five-judge bench. In March, SC appointed a mediation panel headed by Judge (Retd.) FMI Kallifulla for an out-of-court settlement.
2017: The Supreme Court said that the matter is sensitive and the rival parties should settle it out of court.
2011: In May, the Supreme Court stays the High Court order to split the land, stating that the status quo will remain.
2010: The Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed land be divided into three parts"where one third will belong to Ram Lalla, represented by the Hindu Mahasabha; one third to the Islamic Waqf Board; and the remaining third to the Nirmohi Akhara. In December, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and the Sunni Waqf Board move the Supreme Court, challenging the HC ruling.
2002: In an attack on a train from Godhra in Gujarat, believed to be carrying karsevaks to Ayodhya, at least 58 people were killed. Riots erupted across the state and about a thousand people were said to have been killed during it.
The High Court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the site and to determine if it was earlier a temple. In April, three HC judges started the hearing to determine who the site belongs to.
1992: The disputed Babri Mosque was razed to the ground by karsevaks on 6 December. This led to some of the most deadliest riots across the country which led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people. The central government, headed by PV Narasimha Rao, formed a commission of inquiry under Justice MS Liberhan.
1989: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) laid the foundation of a Ram temple on the land next to the Babri Masjid. Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, former VHP Vice-President, filed a fresh suit asking for the mosque to be shifted elsewhere.
In October, the four suits that have been pending at the Faizabad court are transferred to a special bench of the High Court.
1986: A district court ordered that the gates of the mosque be opened and Hindus be allowed to worship there, on a plea by Hari Shankar Dubey. As Muslims protested the move to allow Hindus to pray in the mosque, a Babri Mosque Action Committee is formed.
1961: The Sunni Central Board of Waqf filed a case against the placing of idols inside the mosque and claimed that the mosque and surrounding land was a graveyard.
1959: The Nirmohi Akhara filed a third suit seeking possession of the site and claimed to be the custodians of the Ram Janmabhoomi.
1950: Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das filed suits at the Faizabad court seeking permission to offer prayers to the idols in the janamsthan. While the inner courtyard remained locked, prayers were allowed.
1949: Lord Ram's idol appeared inside the mosque. Muslims claimed that the idol was placed by Hindu groups. Both sides file civil suits following which the government declared the area as disputed and locked the gates to the premises.
1885: Mahant Raghubir Das filed the first case, seeking permission to build a canopy on the Ramchabutra (a raised platform) outside the mosque. The plea was rejected by the Faizabad district court a year later.
1859: The officials from British colonial administration erected a fence at the site to separate the places of worships. While the Muslims were allowed to use the inner court, the Hindus were allowed the outer court.
1853: The first recorded incident of violence between Hindus and Muslims over the holy site took place during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. Nirmohis, a Hindu sect, claimed that a Hindu temple had been destroyed during Babur's times to build the mosque.
1528: Mughal emperor Babur's commander Mir Bagi came to Ayodhya, and is believed to have destroyed the pre-existing temple dedicated to Lord Ram to build Babri Masjid.
With inputs from PTI