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Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 17:29

Mosque row: India’s ruling BJP leaders to be tried

By Associated Press

Mosque row: India’s ruling BJP leaders to be tried
Hindu fundamentalists attack the wall of the 16th century Babri Masjid Mosque with iron rods on Dec 06, 1992 at a disputed holy site in the city of Ayodhya. (Douglas E. Curran / AFP)

NEW DELHI — India's top court on Wednesday ordered four senior leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to stand trial over a 1992 attack on an ancient mosque that sparked Hindu-Muslim violence that killed thousands.

The attack on the mosque in Ayodhya, 350 miles east of New Delhi, sparked the largest explosion of Hindu-Muslim violence in the country in decades, leaving 2,000 people dead

A lower court had earlier dropped conspiracy charges against the four in a case that has languished in India's sluggish legal system for almost 25 years.

Hindu groups say the 16th century Babri Mosque was built after a temple dedicated to the Hindu god King Ram was destroyed by Muslim invaders. Hindu fundamentalists with pickaxes and crowbars razed the structure to the ground in December 1992.

The attack on the mosque in Ayodhya, 350 miles east of New Delhi, sparked the largest explosion of Hindu-Muslim violence in the country in decades, leaving 2,000 people dead. Thousands more died in later violence caused by disputes over the site.

Hindu hard-liners, including BJP members, say they want to build a new temple to Ram on the site.

The four party leaders are accused of making inflammatory speeches that incited thousands of their followers who had camped out in Ayodhya ahead of the attack on the mosque.

The four — L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh — have said that the mosque's demolition was a spontaneous eruption by angry Hindu activists. Advani, now 89, has served as India's home minister and deputy prime minister. He also served as president of the BJP. Joshi and Bharti are both federal lawmakers, and Bharti is also member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet.

READ MORE: India's top court asks Hindus, Muslims to sort out temple issue in Ayodhya town

Singh is currently the governor of an Indian province, and the constitution protects him from criminal trial. Therefore his trial will start after his term ends.

At the time of the mosque's 1992 destruction, Singh was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located.

The Supreme Court order follows demands from the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's main investigating agency, that the conspiracy charges against the senior party leaders be reinstated.

Mosque row: India’s ruling BJP leaders to be tried
A member of Hindu Bajrang Dal garlands a model of a Ram temple during a procession marking the 24th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya, in Amritsar, India. Hindu hardliners demolished the Babri Mosque in December 1992, claiming it was built on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu God Ram, sparking off country-wide Hindu-Muslim riots. (Narinder Nanu / AFP)

The court said that the trial will held in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.

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A separate case is already underway involving about 20 people accused of the actual demolition of the mosque.

The Supreme Court has said that both trials should be combined and a final verdict reached within two years.

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