AN Indian government minister from prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party and several top party colleagues must face trial for their alleged role in the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque by a mob, the Supreme Court ruled today (April 19).
The demolition of the historic place of worship in Ayodhya, regarded as the birthpace of Hindu deity Ram, triggered religious riots that killed thousands.
The court said Uma Bharti, Modi’s water resources minister, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veterans LK Advani and MM Joshi, should face trial on criminal conspiracy charges for making inflammatory speeches that incited Hindus to tear down the 16th century mosque.
A lawyer for Advani, KK Venugopal, declined to comment outside the court in New Delhi. Bharti denied the charges, telling reporters that there was no conspiracy and that it was her dream to see the temple built. Calls to Joshi’s office went unanswered.
A spokesman for the BJP, GVL Narasimha Rao, was quoted by media as calling the charges “baseless”.
The charges against the BJP leaders, brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation, date back more than a decade and were previously blocked by another court.
In 1992, Advani, a former home minister and chief of the BJP, led Hindus on a pilgrimage that ended with the razing of the mosque. Photographs circulated at the time show politicians celebrating its destruction.
The BJP is committed to building a temple dedicated to Lord Ram on the site of the mosque, “within the framework of the constitution”.
Most BJP politicians have said the courts should decide if construction can go ahead.
While several other politicians will also face trial, the court granted the ruling governor of the western state of Rajasthan constitutional immunity and dropped cases against other political leaders.