India: The court acquits all 32 accused in Babri mosque demolition case
A special court has acquitted top leaders from India’s governing party for their alleged role in the demolition of a mosque in 1992.
The trial court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – the country’s top investigation agency – announced the verdict in the 28-year-old case involving 32 accused, including former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, 92, – a one-time mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Other senior leaders among those acquitted on Wednesday are former ministers Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, and Vinay Katiyar.
Former deputy prime minister LK Advani and BJP leaders MM Joshi and Uma Bharti had denied charges that they incited Hindu mobs to demolish the 16th Century Babri mosque in the town of Ayodhya. The demolition sparked violence that killed some 2,000 people.
It was also a pivotal moment in the political rise of the Hindu right-wing.
The court in its verdict said that “anti-social elements” tried to demolish the mosque and that the accused leaders tried to stop them.
The verdict was delivered by a special federal court in Lucknow city amid tight security. Shops in the vicinity of the court remained shut.
The three BJP leaders were not in court and watched the verdict through video conference. Media was not allowed to enter the courtroom.
What happened on 6 December 1992?
Many Hindus believe the 16th-century mosque, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built at the place where Ram was born in Ayodhya, located about 135km (84 miles) east of the state capital, Lucknow.
The gathering at the mosque began as a religious procession organised by three right-wing Hindu groups, including the then main opposition BJP.
The organisations had pledged to begin work on building a temple at the site. But they had given a commitment to the government and to the courts that it would be a symbolic start – there would be a religious ceremony and no damage would be done to the mosque.
Last year, India’s Supreme Court awarded the bitterly contested mosque site to Hindus, handing the BJP a victory to drive home its Hindu nationalist agenda.
The verdict dealt a defeat to Muslims, who also claimed the land. The court did say the demolition of the mosque had been a criminal act.
It also asked the government to provide land to Muslims to substitute the land they had lost.
In July, Modi inaugurated the construction of the temple, which was one of the promises of the BJP made since it was founded in 1980s. The party rose to national prominence on the back of the temple movement.