Much against the popular perception that the Hindu groups began their fight in 1855 for a Ram temple at the place where Babri Masjid stood till 1992, a book claims that it is a great misinterpretation of the facts.
The book, titled "Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India" by historian Sarvepalli Gopal, says that the 1855 confrontation was not for Ram temple at Babri Masjid-Janmasthan site.
It states that the conflict was over the Hanuman Garhi temple near the disputed site and the last Nawab of Awad Wajid Ali Shah saved the temple from a band of Sunni Muslim fighters in 1855.
AYODHYA CONFLICT 162 YEARS AGO
Before the Awadh region came under the rule of Nawabs, Ayodhya was not a 'little other than a widlerness' with a few devotees attached to Hindu shrines. But, by the middle of 19th century, it had emerged as a major centre of religious tourism and a lot of credit went to the Nawabs, who gave generous donations for construction of temples.
In fact, the land on which Hanuman Garhi temple is located was donated by one of the Nawabs. In 1885, Ayodhya witnessed a major Hindu-Muslim conflict when orthodox Sunni cleric Shah Ghulam Hussain claimed that the temple of Hanuman Garhi was built by destroying a mosque which existed at its place.
The Hanuman Garhi was under the possession of Biaragis. They denied the existence of a mosque of the place of temple. Ghulam Hussain led a about 500 of his followers to Hanuman Garhi, which was defended by around 8,000 supporters of the Bairagis.
The followers of Ghulam Hussain were comprehensively defeated. The book says that the outnumbered Muslim fighters "gained the Masjid (Babri Masjid) where they were soon surrounded and cut to pieces." It further adds, "Although the Bairagis defeated the Muslims and entered the mosque (Babri Masjid), they did not occupy it; they returned to the Ghurrie (Hanuman Garhi) and other abodes."
REACTION FROM MUSLIMS
The defeat of Muslims in Awadh ruled by the Nawabs led to anger among the Muslims, both Sunni and Shia. The clerics issued fatwas asking Nawab Wajid Ali Shah "to punish the 'wickedness' and 'enormities' of the infidels." The situation was tense and more communal clashes looked imminent.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah responded with an appeal for peace and constituted a three-member committee of enquiry, consisting of a Muslim, a Hindu and representative of the British in order defuse the tension.
The committee found that there was no mosque at the place of Hanuman Garhi, "at least in the past twenty-five to thirty years, and most probably there never had been one." The report led to resentment among the Muslims and another cleric Maulvi Amir Ali Amethavi launched a movement to reclaim the Hanuman Garhi temple.
HOW WAJID ALI SHAH RESPONDED?
To deal with the new threat, Wajid Ali Shah toyed with the idea of constructing a mosque adjacent to the Hanuman Garhi temple but the move was strongly opposed by the Hindus. Wajid Ali Shah then dropped the idea.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah now took help from the British and ensured that the Hanuman Garhi temple was not attacked by the Muslim forces and also that no further communal clash took place. Wajid Ali Shah died early next year.
Commenting on the incident, the book says that the Hanuman Garhi episode of 1855 "has been mistaken by many as dispute over the Babri mosque and Ramjanmasthan." S Gopal has blamed this misinterpretation to historian Michael Fisher stating that others "intentionally or unintentionally...have maintained this confusion."