Indian probe blames mosque attack on Hindu leaders

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2009 12:18 PM

An Indian government investigation released Tuesday into the 1992 demolition of a mosque by a raging mob reportedly accused top Hindu nationalist politicians of complicity in the attack that sparked nationwide ethnic riots, leaving 2,000 people dead.

The scathing report, handed to parliament 17 years after the attack, exposed the painful religious divide plaguing a nation that prides itself as a model of a multiethnic, secular democracy.

The report, a copy of which was posted by NDTV on its Web site, accused politicians of stoking religious strife for electoral gain and blamed security forces for standing by while Hindu militants razed the 16th-century Babri Mosque with spades, crowbars and their bare hands.

"(They) could have at least attempted to stem the tide of communalism and the rape of democracy. But they chose to remain deaf, dumb and blind throughout," the report said, according to the NDTV copy.

With many lawmakers from nationalist opposition parties protesting the investigation, officials appeared to pull back from plans to make it publicly available.

The investigation contradicts claims by nationalist leaders that the mosque demolition was a spontaneous eruption by angry Hindu activists.

"The demolition was carried out with great painstaking preparation and preplanning," the report said.

The attack on the mosque in Ayodhya, 350 miles (550 kilometers) east of New Delhi, sparked the largest explosion of Hindu-Muslim tension in the country in decades, leaving 2,000 people dead. Thousands more died in later violence caused by disputes over the site.

Hindu hard-liners say the mosque was built by Muslim rulers on the site of an ancient temple that marked the traditional birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. They want to build a new temple to Ram on the spot.

Muslims say there is no proof a Hindu temple ever stood on the site.

The report listed 68 Hindu nationalist politicians, bureaucrats and other officials as being culpable in the violence. Among those: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who later became prime minister, and Lal Krishna Advani, another prominent leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

A BJP spokesman, Rajeev Pratap Rudy, declined to comment on the report before party officials had a chance to examine it.

The publicity and emotions stirred up by the Dec. 6, 1992, destruction of the mosque and the Ram temple campaign propelled the BJP to power in 1998, and Vajpayee became prime minister.

The party, however, has lost the last two elections and now only controls 116 seats in the 543-member parliament.

The incident remains an open wound here, with no high-ranking leader held responsible for the attack. Advani has been charged over his alleged connection to the demolition, but his trial has been mired for years.

But political leaders seem to want the issue to disappear, rather than risk angering either nationalists among the Hindu majority or Muslims. A government action plan sent to parliament Tuesday recommends a law against communal violence, but does not even refer to the individuals named in the report.

The commission that issued the report, headed by former judge M. S. Liberhan, painted a grim portrait of official complicity in the attack. It accused the BJP government of the state of Uttar Pradesh of encouraging tens of thousands of militant Hindus to converge on the mosque compound in the days before the attack.

The state then refused to send in police reinforcements to protect the mosque, and security officials already there were told not to use force against the gathering mob, the report said.

Zaffaryab Jilani, a leader of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, which has been calling for the mosque to be rebuilt, welcomed the report.

"We have been saying that it was a conspiracy, a well-planned strategy and not a spontaneous action, which led to the demolition of the mosque. This report appears to have come to that conclusion," he said, adding that he had not seen the document.

The report, clogged in the morass of Indian bureaucracy, has taken so long to produce that many of those accused of stoking the violence have since died.

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Associated Press reporter Ashok Sharma contributed to this report.