1992: Mob rips apart mosque in Ayodhya
A mob of Hindu militants has torn down a mosque and attacked other Muslim targets in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, in one of India’s worst outbreaks of inter-communal violence.
The gathering at the mosque began as a religious procession organised by three right-wing Hindu groups, including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Hindu extremists have been campaigning to get rid of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a focus for Hindu-Muslim hostility for decades.
They want to build a Hindu temple in its place, to mark what they believe to be the birthplace of the Hindu warrior king, Lord Ram.
A court has already ordered that the mosque be protected from demolition.
The leaders of the three parties promised to stand by the court’s decision, and said today’s demonstration would be limited to a religious ceremony symbolising the laying of the first bricks of a Hindu temple.
But before the ceremony could start, the 200,000-strong crowd broke through police cordons.
They used hammers to knock down the three domes of the mosque, and then tore at the bricks with their bare hands until the building was totally destroyed.
The government had brought in hundreds of extra police, but eyewitnesses said they stood by and allowed the destruction to take place.
The mob also turned on Indian and foreign journalists recording the scene, before moving on to attack Muslim houses and property in the area.
The violence has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Security forces throughout the north are on high alert, fearing a backlash from India’s 120 million strong Muslim population, and the government has sent paramilitary reinforcements to the area.
The cabinet met in emergency session and dismissed the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh for failing to protect the mosque.
The state – and its 150 million inhabitants – will be ruled directly from New Delhi.
The Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, has repeatedly appealed for calm in radio and television broadcasts.
“What happened today is a matter of great concern and shame for all Indians,” he said.
The leader of the BJP, Lal Krishna Advani, described the incident as “very unfortunate”, and appealed to the crowd still at the Babri mosque site to leave.