On this day 31 years ago, thousands of Hindu nationalist men and women tore down Babri mosque, a 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya.
The mosque was reduced to rubble by Hindu nationalist mob who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.
The demolition of the medieval mosque, which was constructed under the rule of the first Mughal Emperor Babar, triggered anti-Muslim violence in parts of India that continued for months. More than 2,000 people were killed, in the worst anti-Muslim riots since India’s independence in 1947.
This came after Hindu nationalists group ran a campaign alleging that the 16th-century mosque, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built on the location of Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya.
Three years ago, a special court Lucknow has ruled that the demolition of the historic mosque in 1992 by Hindu rioters was not preplanned, acquitting senior leaders from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a lack of evidence.
The trial court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) announced the verdict in the case involving 32 accused, including former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, 92, – a one-time mentor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
All the 32 people were accused of criminal conspiracy and inciting a mob to tear down the Mughal-era mosque.
Other senior leaders among those acquitted were former ministers Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh.
Four years ago, Supreme Court of India awarded the mosque site to Hindus, handing the BJP a victory to drive home its Hindu nationalist and anti-Muslim agenda.
In its ruling in 2019 November, the top court ordered the entire mosque area of 2.77 acres to be allocated to Hindus for the construction of the temple though the top court did say the demolition of the mosque was a criminal act.
In 2020, Modi inaugurated the construction of the temple, which was one of the promises the BJP made when the party was founded in the 1980s. The party rose to national prominence on the back of the temple movement.
Babri was not destined to be the only mosque to be demolished; rather, it was only the first of many Muslim landmarks and monuments that were to follow.
The slogan, “Babri to bas jhanki hai, Kashi Mathura baki hai” (Babri is only a sneak peek; Kashi and Mathura are yet to happen), attests to the longing that persists even today. A list of such monuments marked for demolition has been in broad public circulation for quite some time.
Hindu groups have challenged the continuing existence of historic mosques in Mathura and Varanasi (also known as Kashi) through court cases.
Watch Maktoob’s documentary on Babri.