A new temple rises at Ayodhya

On Wednesday, around mid-day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The ceremony is important as it is an important milestone (marker) in the history of a temple that has been at the centre of a bitter fight between people from Hindu and Muslim communities.

On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the disputed (fought-over) land should be handed over to the Hindu community for the construction of a temple. The court said that a separate piece of land would be given to the Muslim community for building a mosque. Following that order, construction of the temple has now begun.

The history behind the temple

At the heart of the issue is the Babri Masjid, a mosque that built in the 16th century that stood on the disputed land. Many Hindus believe that the mosque was built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple that was demolished by Muslim invaders. It is also popularly believed that the mosque stands on the very place where the Hindu god, Ram was born. As you may know, This why the land is also referred to as ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’, which literally means ‘the place of Ram’s birth’.

In 1949, after India got independence, a statue of Ram was placed by Hindus inside the mosque and that’s when trouble started. Muslims protested the forcible entry and installation of Hindu idols within the mosque. To prevent trouble, the local police locked the gates of the complex and no one was allowed to enter. Both Hindu and Muslim groups took the issue to the law courts.

Fresh trouble began in 1990s when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the same one that runs the central government in Delhi, began a big push to get the disputed structure for the Hindus. The BJP’s activities led to fights between Hindus and Muslims in many cities and finally ended with Hindu mobs forcibly demolishing the mosque on December 6, 1992. Several thousand people died in the riots that followed.

The Supreme Court rules

The dispute meanwhile continued to be fought in law courts and in  November last year, the Supreme Court accepted as proof a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that the remains of a building “that was not Islamic” were there beneath the structure of the demolished Babri mosque. So in essence,  the court agreed with the view that a Hindu structure had been demolished to make way for the mosque.

Many hope that the dispute between Hindus and Muslims over Ayodhya will end with the construction of the temple, and that an ugly chapter in India’s history will be finally closed.