Indian court acquits all accused in razing of Babri mosque

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted all 32 people who had been accused of crimes in a 1992 attack and demolition of a 16th century mosque that sparked Hindu-Muslim violence leaving some 2,000 people dead.

Four senior leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party had been among the defendants at the trial that languished in India’s sluggish legal system for almost 28 years. Seventeen of the 49 accused died of natural causes during the trial.

Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav ruled there was no criminal conspiracy to attack the mosque by hardline Hindu activists and no conclusive evidence to prove that, said attorney Rishab Tripathi.

The four party leaders were accused of making inflammatory speeches that incited tens of 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 — said the mosque’s demolition was a spontaneous eruption by angry Hindu activists.

The verdict follows a ruling by India’s Supreme Court last November favoring the building of a Hindu temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya. Hindus believe the god Ram was born at the site and claim Muslim Emperor Babur built a mosque on top of a temple there.

But the court ruled the demolition of the Babri Masjid was in violation of law and ordered the trial in the mosque demolition case be held separately.

On December 6, 1992, tens of thousands of Hindus who had gathered for a rally near the site climbed the mosque and demolished it with axes and hammers.

The accused included Lal Krishna Advani, 92, a co-founder of the BJP who had served as the deputy prime minister in 2002-04 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Others included two former government ministers, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti, as well as Kalyan Singh, 88, who was the top elected BJP leader of Uttar Pradesh state when the mosque was demolished.

In November last year, the Supreme Court ordered the entire disputed land of area of 2.77 acres (1.1 hectares) to be allocated to Hindus for the construction of a temple while 5 acres (2 hectares) at another location be allocated for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya.

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