BJP leaders Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti charged over 1992 Babri Masjid demolition

PKonweb Report — An Indian judge in Lucknow charged a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and senior leaders from BJP – his ruling party, with criminal conspiracy on Tuesday in connection with the 1992 destruction of Babri Masjid by a Hindu mob.

The charges were framed under section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code read with 153 (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153A, 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), 295A and 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief).

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and stalwarts of the ruling party led by LK Advani and MM Joshi appeared in a special court to hear the charges. Nine other saffron leaders were charged for ‘criminal conspiracy’ in the famous Babri Masjid demolition incident which led to the deaths of more than 2000 people.

All three deny any role in the razing of the mosque on “December 6, 1992, arguably the darkest day in Independent India’s history when the secular fabric encasing multiple Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders was stripped away to reveal the beating saffron heart underneath,” commented Times Now.

The demolition of the mosque in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh unleashed some of the deadliest religious riots across the country since independence in 1947, killing about 2,000 people.

The trial of senior BJP leaders will raise fresh questions about Hindu nationalism within Modi’s party at a time when critics accuse his supporters of trying to marginalize minority groups and redefine India as a Hindu nation.

“The judge accepted our plea to charge the leaders with criminal conspiracy and the accused are already facing trial for making provocative speeches that incited Hindus to pull down the Babri mosque,” said MR Shamshad, a lawyer representing Muslim leaders and victims of the violence.

Bharti, entering the courtroom on Tuesday amid a crowd of reporters, rejected the charges. “I don’t consider myself a criminal,” she said.

Lawyers representing Joshi and Advani did not respond to requests for comment.

Many Hindus believe that the mosque in the town of Ayodhya was built on top of the birthplace of their god-king Rama and the BJP is committed to the construction of a temple there.

The dispute is still at the core of tensions between Hindus and India’s Muslim minority. Indian Muslims make up 14 – 18 percent of the population.

BJP party leaders have faced prosecution for their alleged involvement in the mosque’s destruction for more than a decade, but last month the Supreme Court ruled the party leaders must be tried and the case wrapped up within two years.

Advani, a former home minister and chief of the BJP, led Hindus on the pilgrimage that ended with the razing of the mosque. He says he tried to stop the clashes.

On Tuesday, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest, met the three accused outside the court in a sign of support.

Here’s a look at how the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi controversy has panned out:

The legal battle over the disputed Babri Masjid structure goes on for over a century.

1949: Idols of Ram Lalla are placed surreptitiously under the central dome of the Babri Masjid
1950-61: Four separate suits are filed to either perform puja of Ram Lalla (infant Ram) or hand over charge of the disputed site
1986: Site opens for Hindu worshippers after Faizabad district judge orders removal of locks
1989: The four suits pending are transferred to the Allahabad HC
1991: UP govt acquires land around the structure for convenience of devotees who attend Ram Lalla darshan
December 1992: Babri Masjid is demolished by a frenzied mob of karsevaks
Two FIRs are filed in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Crime no. 197: Actual “demolition of the mosque by karsevaks”
Crime no. 198: Thirteen BJP leaders, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar, are named for delivering ‘communal’ speeches before the demolition
1993: Govt takes over 67 acres of land around the area, seeks SC opinion on whether there existed a Hindu place of worship before the Babri Masjid was built
October 1993: CBI files a composite chargesheet and accuses Advani and other BJP leaders of ‘conspiracy’
1994: Case is sent back to Lucknow Bench of Allahabad HC, suits heard again from 1996
May 4, 2001: Special Judge SK Shukla drops conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Advani and Kalyan Singh
Justice Shukla separates crimes 197 and 198
May 20, 2010: Advani and the others are absolved of conspiracy charges as Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order
September 30, 2010: Allahabad HC awards two-thirds of Ayodhya site to Hindu parties and one-third to Waqf Board
February, 2011: CBI moves SC, arguing the demolition bid was “a concerted conspiracy”
May 9, 2011: SC stays Allahabad HC verdict on Ayodhya dispute
December 25, 2014: Mohammad Farooq, oldest litigant in the case, dies. Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main Muslim litigants in the 1949 Babri Masjid case
March 6, 2017: SC indicates it may revive conspiracy charge and order a joint trial of crimes 197 and 198
March 22, 2017: SC is willing to appoint a principal negotiator if the parties want
April 6, 2017: CBI urges SC to revive the Babri Masjid demolition case against 13 BJP leaders, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar
April 20: Supreme Court orders prosecution of Advani (89), Joshi (83) and 58-year-old Bharti. It also orders day-to-day trial to be concluded in two years.

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