India BJP leaders acquitted in Babri mosque demolition
GB NEWS 24 DESK//
A special court has acquitted top leaders from India’s governing party for their alleged role in the demolition of a mosque in 1992.
Former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, and BJP leaders MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, had denied charges of inciting 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.
Wednesday’s verdict acquitted 32 of the 49 people charged – 17 had died while the case was under way.
The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove the demolition had been planned.
Hindu mobs had demolished the mosque, saying it was built on the ruins of a temple for Lord Ram – they believe the deity was born in Ayodhya.
It is both a historic and contentious verdict in a case that also implicated former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who died in 2018.
And it comes nearly a year after another historic judgment over the site of the mosque. Last year, the Supreme Court gave the land to Hindus, ending a decades-long legal battle. It gave Muslims another plot of land in Ayodhya on which to construct a mosque.
In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for a Hindu temple at the site – a core promise made by his BJP and a hugely symbolic moment for its strident Hindu nationalist base.
How was the verdict greeted?
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board said it would appeal against the ruling in the high court. “There were police officers, government officials and senior journalists who appeared as witnesses. What about their testimony? The court should have said whether these eyewitnesses were lying,” the board’s lawyer, Zafaryab Jilani, told the BBC.
Many political observers believe the verdict is likely to add to the feeling of discontent and marginalisation among India’s 200-million Muslim minority.
Opposition leaders and some political commentators decried the ruling.
Congress party’s Randeep Surjewala called it an “egregious violation of the law” that ran counter to “the constitutional spirit”, and Sitaram Yehchury, from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said it was “a complete travesty of Justice”.
MP Asaduddin Owaisi told BBC Telugu he was “pained” at the verdict and called it “a black day for [the] judiciary”.
“Was it some magic that the masjid [mosque] got demolished? It seems violent acts pay politically.”
Mr Advani, now 92, said he “wholeheartedly welcomed” the verdict. Mr Joshi, now 86, said it was “a historic decision” that proved that “no conspiracy was hatched” to bring down the mosque. Neither they nor Ms Bharti, 61, attended court – they watched the verdict by video.
Iqbal Ansari, the petitioner in the case over the ownership of the disputed site, said: “It’s good that this is now over.”
“Let’s all live in peace. Let there be no fresh trouble of this nature. Hindu and Muslim have always lived in peace in Ayodhya.”