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Ram Janam Bhumi#

Since the early 1980s, this site in the city of Ayodhya has seen some of India's most violent postindependence religious strife.

The location has historically been a source of contention for Hindu and Muslim communities, with confrontations occurring there in 1855 and 1934, according to British records.

The Babri Masjid, a mosque built in 1528 under the leadership of Mir Baqi, a commander of the Moghul emperor Babar (1483–1530), occupied Ram Janam Bhumi until 1992.

Although there is no evidence to support this assertion, local legend claims that the mosque was erected after a Hindu temple was demolished nearby.

Several local Hindus covertly put pictures of the infant Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana in the mosque a few months after India got independence in 1947, alleging that the figures had magically materialized in a ball of light.

The government, having only recently put an end to the Hindu-Muslim massacres that accompanied the partition of British India into India and Pakistan, didn't want to rekindle religious fervor, so it padlocked the compound's gates and sent the case to the courts for resolution, where it languished for nearly four decades.

When the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu nationalist movement, initially started demanding for the site's "liberation," declaring that the existing mosque was an insult to all Hindus, the location sparked fresh controversy.

The mosque was characterized as a symbol of Muslim icon oclasm in the VHP's campaign, and government attempts to safeguard it were described as an attempt to satisfy the Muslim population and keep their support.

Rajiv Gandhi's national government helped the VHP's efforts to free the site in 1986.

The VHP and the Gandhi government worked together to open the compound's gates so that Hindus may pray there, while critics saw the move as a transparent attempt to win Hindu votes.

Throughout the 1980s, there was pressure to start building a new temple at Ram Janam Bhumi, which culminated in a series of campaigns.

Many of these campaigns coincided with national elections, and the passion they evoked helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political party with strong ties to the VHP, win more seats.

The last campaign began on December 6, 1992, a day chosen for its "symbolic" significance, and finished little over five hours later with the mosque's destruction.

The whole operation was meticulously organized, with demolition personnel ordering the destruction of all television cameras before leveling the structure to avoid any outside media footage.

The razing was also done with the permission of the state administration, which was run by the BJP and made no effort to defend the temple.

Riots erupted, notably in Bombay, where over 3,000 people were murdered, the most of them were Muslims.

The site of the Babri Masjid remained a source of conflict between Muslims and Hindus even after it was demolished.

Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao vowed to restore the mosque immediately after it was demolished, but he failed to do it during his five years in government.

Meanwhile, several Hindu organizations, including traditional religious authorities such as the Shankaracharyas, have called for the building of a Ram Janam Bhumi temple.

The administration, seeing nothing but difficulty ahead, referred the case back to the courts for resolution, where it remains to this day and may stay for decades.

Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, 1996, is a good source of information.