Demolition of the Babri Masjid

Demolition of the Babri Masjid
Ayodhya is located in India
Ayodhya
Ayodhya
Ayodhya (India)
LocationAyodhya, India
Date6 December 1992
TargetBabri Masjid
Attack type
Riots
Deaths2,000 (including ensuing riots)[1]
PerpetratorsKar Sevaks

On 6 December 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks demolished the 16th-century Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh. The demolition occurred after a political rally at the site turned violent.

In Hindu tradition, the city of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Rama. In the 16th century a Mughal general, Mir Baqi, had built a mosque, known as the Babri Masjid at a site identified by some Hindus as Ram Janmabhoomi, or the birthplace of Rama. In the 1980s, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) began a campaign for the construction of a temple dedicated to Rama at the site, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its political voice. Several rallies and marches were held as a part of this movement, including the Ram Rath Yatra led by L. K. Advani.

On 6 December 1992 the VHP and the BJP organised a rally at the site involving 150,000 volunteers, known as kar sevaks. The rally turned violent, and the crowd overwhelmed security forces and tore down the mosque. A subsequent inquiry into the incident found 68 people responsible, including several leaders of the BJP and the VHP. The demolition resulted in several months of intercommunal rioting between India's Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people. Retaliatory violence against Hindus also occurred in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Background

In Hindu the birthplace of the deity Rama, known as "Ram Janmabhoomi", is considered a holy site. This site is often believed to at the place where the Babri Masjid stood in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh: historical evidence to support this belief is scarce.[2][3] In 1528, following the Mughal conquest of the region, a mosque was built at the site by the Mughal general Mir Baqi, and named the "Babri Masjid" after the Mughal emperor Babur.[4][5] Popular belief holds that Baqi demolished a temple of Rama to build the mosque: limited historical evidence exists to support this theory.[3][2] Archaeological evidence has been found of a structure pre-dating the mosque. This structure has been variously identified as a Hindu temple and a Buddhist structure.[2][4]

For at least four centuries, the site was used for religious purposes by both Hindus and Muslims. The claim that the mosque stood on the site of a temple was first made in 1822, by an official of the Faizabad court.[5][4] The Nirmohi Akhara sect cited this statement in laying claim to the site in later in the 19th century, leading to the first recorded incidents of religious violence at the site, between 1853 and 1855.[5][6] In 1859 the British colonial administration set up a railing to separate the outer courtyard of the mosque to avoid disputes. The status quo remained in place until 1949, when idols of Rama were surreptitiously placed inside the mosque, allegedly by volunteers of the Hindu Mahasabha. This led to an uproar, with both parties filing civil suits laying claim to the land. The placement of the idol was seen as a desecration by the users of the Masjid. The site was declared to be in dispute, and the gates to the Masjid were locked.[6][5]

In the 1980s, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) began a campaign for the construction of a temple dedicated to Rama at the site, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its political voice.[5][7] The movement was bolstered by the decision of a district judge, who ruled in 1986 that the gates would be reopened and Hindus permitted to worship there.[6][5] This decision was endorsed by Indian National Congress politician Rajiv Gandhi, then the Prime Minister of India, who sought to regain support from Hindus he had lost over the Shah Bano controversy.[4][5] Nonetheless, the Congress lost the 1989 general election, and the BJP's strength in parliament grew from 2 members to 88, making its support crucial to the new government of V. P. Singh.[8][5]

In September 1990, BJP leader L. K. Advani began a Rath Yatra, a political rally travelling across much of north India to Ayodhya. The yatra sought to generate support for the proposed temple, and also sought to unite Hindu votes by mobilizing anti-Muslim sentiment.[9] Advani was arrested by the government of Bihar before he could reach Ayodhya. Despite this, a large body of kar sevaks or Sangh Parivar activists reached Ayodhya and attempted to attack the mosque. This resulted in a pitched battle with the paramilitary forces that ended with the death of several kar sevaks. The BJP withdrew its support to the V. P. Singh ministry, necessitating fresh elections. The BJP substantially increased its tally in the union parliament, as well as winning a majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly.[8]