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The Problem at Ayodhya

by Vikas Kamat

First Online: May 01, 2005
Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

The small town of Ayodhya, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, has been the scene of violent altercations between Muslims and Hindus for a long time. This article lists the root causes of conflict and traces the chronology of events.

The beginning of the conflict at Ayodhya dates back to 1528 A.D., the year when Mir Baqi, a Muslim General in Moghul Emperor Babur's army, dismantled an 11th-century Hindu temple marking what some believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Lord Rama. He then had the Babri Masjid constructed over the site. Hindus and Muslims continued to dispute the site's rightful ownership. Communal rioting broke out in the year 1855, and nearly a hundred people died in the violence.

Subsequent riots in 1934 damaged the mosque, which was later repaired. After Hindus raided and took over the mosque in December 1949, the government locked up the building and declared it off limits. The following year, Hindus and Muslims both petitioned the courts for possession. After over three decades the mosque reopened in 1986; during the same time groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a Hindu temple to be built adjacent to the mosque. Riots broke out shortly afterward, during which 600 people died. Hundreds were killed in another outburst that occurred in 1990.

Babri Masjid in 1990

On December 6th of 1992, a large crowd of several thousands of Hindus gathered at Ayodhya in protest and a pandemonium ensued. In the chaos, some who had gathered started destroying the mosque and within nine hours, the 464 year old mosque was brought down entirely. The volunteers only used hand tools and metal rods, and several got injured in the process. After police finally drove away the attackers with clubs (lathis) and tear gas, the mob then decided to destroy other Muslim structures, looting and burning about 270 Muslim homes and destroying  other local mosques. Eventually, rioting spread to at least 1,000 villages throughout India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. More than 1,100 were dead and 4,000 injured. Hindu temples were destroyed in Muslim dominated areas.

Hundreds more perished in subsequent rioting that erupted in Mumbai.

The ill-will generated from Ayodhya was to erupt ten years later, in year 2002 in what is known as "Gujarat Massacre" when a number of Hindus and especially Muslims were killed in the ethnic violence.

See Also:


Guide to Ethnicity and Conflict in India
Ethnicity & Conflict

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