Indian court acquits Hindu fanatics in Babri Mosque demolition case
An Indian court Wednesday acquitted top ruling party leaders of conspiracy related to the mob demolition of a flashpoint mosque decades ago that sparked communal riots which left more than 2,000 dead.
Nearly twenty-eight years after the Babri Masjid was demolished, an Indian court on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused in the case, including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti, all Hindu nationalists.
The accused were acquitted citing a lack of evidence against them for hatching the alleged conspiracy. The Special CBI court also observed that the 1992 demolition was not pre-planned.
Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharti were accused of the conspiracy that led to the demolition of the 15th century mosque in December 1992. They attended the proceedings via video conferencing.
Twenty-six out of 32 accused were present in the court, including Sadhvi Ritambhara, Sakshi Maharaj, Vinay Katiyar and Champat Rai Bansal.
In the Babri demolition case, an FIR was registered against a total of 49 people. Of these 17 have died, the remaining 32 are still accused.
The seventeen accused in the case include Bal Thackeray, Ashok Singhal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Giriraj Kishore, and Vijayaraje Scindia who passed away during the trial.
During the trial, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the CBI court.
The UP police issued a high alert across the state in view of the verdict, in the Babri mosque demolition case. Vehicular movement on the roads adjoining the court has been minimsed. Wooden barricades were erected near most of the cross-sections in the vicinity of the court building, and movement of buses from the Kaisarbagh bus stand diverted.
Supporters were stopped at the barricades itself. Media persons were not allowed to enter the court building. Most of the shops in the vicinity of the courts remained closed in view of the pronouncement of the verdict. Lucknow's Commissioner of Police Sujeet Pandey also took stock of security arrangements.
Tens of thousands of supporters of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu groups, armed with pick-axes and spades, tore down the 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 to pave the way for a temple.
Hindus say the small patch of land where it stood is the birthplace of their revered god Ram, and the site has become a symbol of India's Hindu-Muslim divide.
The mob was allegedly led by top BJP leaders, including India's former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi.
They were later accused of conspiring to destroy the mosque, with more than 30 BJP leaders facing charges of criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and inciting the mob. But the special court sitting in the northern city of Lucknow said Wednesday the prosecution had failed to prove their guilt. "Anti-social elements brought down the structure. The accused leaders tried to stop these people," the judge said as he announced the verdict. "The audio of the speeches were also not clear. All accused are acquitted."
In the late 1980s, the BJP -- currently led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- launched a nationwide campaign to garner support for the construction of a temple for Lord Ram.
Advani, now 92, led tens of thousands of supporters on a months-long road rally across the country before the mob targeted the mosque.
The razing of the religious structure sparked India's worst sectarian riots and a protracted court case over the site.
Last year the Supreme Court awarded the land to a trust, clearing the way for the construction of a temple -- a key victory for Modi and BJP supporters.