An Indian court acquitted top leaders of the ruling BJP of any wrongdoing in the destruction of historic mosque in 1992.
Former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, and BJP leaders MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, had denied charges of inciting Hindu extremists to demolish the 16th Century Babri mosque in the town of Ayodhya.
The demolition sparked violence that killed some 2,000 people.
The destruction of the mosque pave way for the rise of the Hindu right-wing party.
In a verdict the court 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.
Hindus believe the mosque was built over the birthplace of their deity Lord Ram.
Muslim groups and opposition parties criticised the acquittals.
The influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which represents Muslim social and political groups in India, said it would appeal against the ruling in the high court.
The controversial verdict 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.
These successive verdicts in the favour of Hindus are likely to add the feeling of discontent and marginalisation among India’s 200-million Muslim minority.
On 6th December 1992:
Many right-wing Hindu groups organized religious processions and pledged to build a temple at the disputed site where the Babri mosque stood.
The groups had vowed that the gathering on that day in Ayodhya would be symbolic – there would be a religious ceremony, and no damage would be done to the mosque.
After speeches given by BJP and right-wing leaders crowds perhaps 150,000 strong, armed with shovels, hammers, iron rods and pick axes charged towards the outer cordon of police protecting the mosque, scrambled on top of the mosque’s central dome and started hacking away at the mortar. Soon, the mosque was razed to the ground.
Within hours, Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in different parts of India. The demolition sparked violence that killed some 2,000 people.
The court interviewed nearly 850 witnesses and examined 7,000 documents and TV footage and photos of what happened on the day to help them frame charges against 49 people, mostly BJP leaders.
Despite credible evidence that the tearing down of the mosque had been planned, the court held no one guilty for the violence is testimony to how India’s criminal justice system works.