Security has been tight in Ayodhya, the town in north India at the centre of the temple-mosque dispute [AFP]
Muslims and Hindus of India have been arguing over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid religious site since the beginning of the 16th century, when a mosque was built on the site which Hindus revere as the birthplace of Lord Ram, a Hindu deity.
1853: First recorded incident of violence over the site when a Hindu sect claimed the structure, contending that the mosque stood on the spot where a temple had been destroyed.
1855: Both Hindus and Muslims worship in the same building.
1857: After rising tension, the British colonial government puts up a wall in front of the mosque. Hindus, forbidden access to the inner yard, begin making their offerings on a platform (chabootra) in the outer yard.
1883: Efforts to construct a temple on this platform were halted by the deputy commissioner.
1885: A Hindu priest files a suit to seek permission to construct a larger pltaform in the outer courtyard of the disputed site.
Dec 1885: The judge dismisses the suit, saying that the temple would be too close to the mosque. The priest appeals against order in court of a local district judge.
1886: A second appeal is filed before the judicial commissioner who also dismissed the case. With this, the first round of legal battles fought by the Hindus came to an end.
“It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land held sacred by Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance; all that can be done is to maintain status quo.”
District judge Col. Chamier dismisses suit filed on March 18, 1886
1934: Walls around the mosque and one of the domes are damaged during communal riots.
1949: In a midnight operation, Hindu activists quietly erect statues of Rama and Sita in the mosque, while police guards are asleep. Next day riots between Hindus and Muslims break out in and around the site. The government proclaims the premises a disputed area and locks the gates.
1970: Archaeological excavations in and around the site indicate a large Hindu complex existed on the site. Muslims strongly criticise the findings, claiming that it failed to mention evidence of a temple in its interim reports.
1985: The Rajiv Gandhi government orders the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid to be removed. Prior to that date, only one Hindu ceremony per year was permitted.
1989: Communal tension in the region worsens when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu group, receives permission to perform a stone-laying ceremony at the disputed site.
1992: The mosque is torn down by Hindu activists, prompting nationwide rioting between Hindus and Muslims in which more than 2,000 people die.
Dec 1992: The Liberhan commission is set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the demolition of the mosque.
2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
2002: Hundreds of volunteers converge on the site after the VHP confirms plans to begin construction of a temple at the disputed site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
Mar 2002: Almost 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in communal violence in Gujarat following the train attack.
2005: An explosives-laden jeep is driven into the wall of the mosque complex. Security forces kill five suspected Muslim fighters in the aftermath of the attack.
2009: The Liberhan commission submits its report to Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, more than 16 years after the demolition of the mosque. The report blames Hindu politicians, causing an uproar in the Indian parliament.
Sept 2010: Allahabad High Court to issue a final ruling on whether the land of the religious site belongs to Muslims or Hindus.