The Supreme Court’s suggestion of an “out of court” settlement of the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has reignited the debate around the sensitive issue that has stirred the country’s emotions and impacted national politics for the last 25 years.
Here is a timeline of the contentious issue:
1528: The Babri Masjid is built in Ayodhya by Babur– the first Mughal emperor in India. However, Hindus say the spot where the mosque came up was the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism.
1853: The first recorded incidents of violence break out between Muslims and a Hindu sect by the name of ‘Nirmohis’, who claim that the mosque was built after tearing down a Hindu temple during Babur’s rule.
1859: The Britishers, who ruled India at the time, built a fence to separate the places of worship with Muslims getting access to the inner court while Hindus could pray in the outer court.
1885: The first case is filed by Mahant Raghubir Das who seeks permission to build a canopy outside the mosque but the plea is turned down by the Faizabad District Court.
1949: A group of Hindus allegedly place idols of Lord Ram inside the disputed site leading to protests by Muslims and eventually both groups file civil suits. Sensing trouble, the government locks down the premises.
1950: Pleas are again filed in the Faizabad court by Hindus seeking permission to offer prayers. While the inner courtyard remains locked, the court allows prayers at the site.
1959: The Nirmohi Akhara files a third suit seeking possession of the site, claiming to be the custodians of the Ramjanmabhoomi (birth place of Lord Ram)
1961: The Sunni Central Board of Waqf files a case against the placing of idols at the site while claiming that land surrounding the mosque was a graveyard.
1984: Stepping on the gas, Hindus form a committee to build a temple at the site and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launches a campaign that is spearheaded by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani.
1986: A district judge allows Hindus to worship at the site and orders the opening of the gates. Agitated Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
1989: The VHP lays the foundations of the temple on a piece of land adjacent to the disputed mosque while Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, former VHP vice-president files a case asking for the mosque to be shifted elsewhere.
1990: Volunteers of the VHP partially damage the mosque while Advani takes out a massive rath yatra to educate people about the Ayodhya movement in October. A total of 16 Hindu kar sevaks are shot dead by Uttar Pradesh police.
1991: The BJP forms government in Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located and the momentum for the temple gains pace as kar sevaks start pouring into Ayodhya.
1992: The disputed Babri Mosque is torn down by thousands of karsevaks on December 6 belonging to the Shiv Sena, VHP and BJP leading to pan-India riots between Hindus and Muslims in which over 2,000 people are killed. The Congress government sets up a commission of enquiry under Justice Liberhan on December 16.
2002: The VHP vows to start constructing the temple from March 15 as hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 Hindus returning from Ayodhya are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra, Gujarat by a Muslim mob. In the riots that followed, around 2,000 people, mostly Muslims are killed across Gujarat.
2003: Archaeologists find evidence of a temple beneath the mosque, but Muslims dispute the findings. Later that year, seven Hindu leaders except Advani are found guilty of destroying the Babri Mosque.
2009: The Liberhan Commission report blames leaders of the BJP for their role in the mosque's razing.
2010: The Allahabad High Court rules that the site be split into three parts, with the Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohis getting one-third each. Control of the central disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, is given to Hindus. Both Muslims and Hindus approach the apex court.
2011: Supreme Court suspends the High Court ruling, stating that status quo be maintained.
2014: In a landslide win, the BJP returns to power at the Centre.
2015: The VHP announces a nationwide drive to collect stones for the construction of the Ram Mandir. In December, two trucks of stones arrive at the disputed site.
2017: The BJP storms to power in UP with a massive victory.