30 years on: The demolition of Babri Masjid

It is 30 years since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India, which many say was a major turning point in the treatment of Muslims in country.

Babri was a 16th-century mosque located in Ayodhya, a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The mosque was one of the largest in the region and was an important religious site for Muslims.

On December 6, 1992, a large mob of armed Hindu nationalists rushed the security forces and destroyed the mosque.

Condemned widely by the international community, the incident was seen as an attack on Indian Muslims and a violation of their rights, and  condemned widely by the international community.

The aftermath of the demolition was devastating. Riots broke out across the country, leading to the deaths of over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.  

Hindu nationalism

The demolition was carried out by supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party now in government. Many believe that the event was planned and carried out with the support of high-ranking members of the party.

“6th December will forever remain a Black Day for Indian democracy. The desecration and demolition of #BabriMasjid is a symbol of injustice,” Asaduddin Owais, one of India’s leading Muslim politicians, wrote on Twitter.

“Those responsible for its destruction were never convicted. We will not forget it & we will ensure that future generations remember it too,” he added.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement this week: ““Today marks the 30th anniversary of the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya by Hindu zealots. The occasion is a sad reminder of the growing anti-Muslim frenzy in India ever since.”

“We condemn the ongoing construction of a Hindu temple on the site of the demolished mosque, and the acquittal of the criminals responsible for its destruction.”

In 2019, the Supreme Court granted the entire disputed land to the construction of a temple, giving another five-acre plot for a mosque in Ayodhya.

Meanwhile, a court in 2020, acquitted all senior figures from the BJP of their role in the demolition of the mosque.  

History of provocation

Over the years the mosque, built by the Mughal Emperor Babur, has been a flashpoint for tensions. In 1949, Hindu nationalists placed idols inside the mosque, leading to a legal battle over the site. The case eventually led the government to declare it disputed and lock the mosque’s gates.  

But the provocation continued and in 1980s the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a Hindu nationalist organisation, began a campaign to build a temple on the site. The culmination of that campaign led to the mob destroying the masjid in 1992.

In the years following the demolition, there have been increasing instances of violence and discrimination against Muslims in India.  

Many have pointed to the rise of the BJP and its hardline Hindu nationalist stance as a factor in this trend.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid continues to be a deeply divisive issue in India and has played a significant role in the discrimination of Muslims in the country.

Image: Samuel Bourne[1][2] (1834–1912), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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