AYODHYA, India – India is gearing up for a significant event in January 2024, as the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is set to conclude its initial phase, with doors opening to devotees. However, this momentous occasion is fraught with a long history of dispute and conflict.
The construction site of the Ram Temple has been at the center of a contentious dispute between Hindus and Muslims for decades. Hindus assert that this site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a revered deity, and holds profound historical significance predating the Babri mosque’s construction by Muslim Mughals in 1528. Tragically, in 1992, a Hindu mob demolished the mosque, sparking widespread riots across India that resulted in the loss of approximately 2,000 lives, primarily Muslims.
In 2019, India’s Supreme Court awarded the disputed site to Hindus, clearing the path for the construction of a Hindu temple. This plan was fervently supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party, and he has been invited to participate in the opening ceremony’s prayers, according to Nripendra Misra, Chairman of the Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Temple Construction Committee.
“The ground floor of the temple will be completed by December 2023, and once the lord has taken residence in the sanctum sanctorum, we will welcome devotees to come and offer their prayers,” Misra stated.
The Disputed History:
The demolition of the centuries-old Babri mosque in Ayodhya by a Hindu mob in late 1992 triggered deadly religious riots across India, claiming around 2,000 lives. Here are key historical facts about the disputed site:
- The Hindu epic scripture Ramayana identifies Ayodhya, located in Uttar Pradesh, as the birthplace of the Hindu god-king Ram, a physical incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a principal deity in Hinduism.
- In 1528, a mosque was built in Ayodhya during the reign of India’s first Mughal ruler, Babur. Many Hindus believe this mosque was constructed on the precise spot where Lord Ram was born, where evidence suggests a Hindu temple once stood.
- In December 1949, Hindu activists placed idols of Ram inside the disputed structure, leading to its seizure by authorities. Court orders prohibited the removal of the idols, effectively ending the structure’s use as a mosque.
- Hindu and Muslim groups filed separate claims over the site. In 1989, the Allahabad High Court ordered the maintenance of the status quo.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee attempted, unsuccessfully, to resolve the dispute through negotiations.
In 1991, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in Uttar Pradesh, the campaign for the Ram temple’s construction intensified.
On December 6, 1992, a group of Hindus gathered near the site and started damaging the mosque with axes and hammers. Within a short time, the entire structure was razed to the ground.
In September 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the primary site should be divided into three parts, one for Muslims and two for Hindus, acknowledging the complexity of the issue. The court recognized the immense risk involved in making such a decision but deemed it necessary.
As India prepares to open the controversial Ram Mandir, the wounds of the past remain a somber reminder of the challenges the nation has faced in resolving this deeply rooted dispute. The temple’s completion is seen as a significant milestone by some, while others continue to mourn the loss of the historic Babri Masjid and the communal tensions it ignited.