A number of high-profile members of India’s ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) will stand trial for their role in the Babri mosque demolition of 1992, which sparked one of the nation’s biggest communal riots since the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan as nearly 2,000 people lost their lives.
India’s Supreme Court announced that 13 senior members of the BJP, including former BJP chief Lal Krishna Advani, current water resources minister Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the Babri mosque demolition, will stand trial.
The 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Utter Pradesh, triggered widespread violence throughout the country as right-wing Hindu nationalists called upon Hindus to “reclaim” the land on which the mosque stood, which they alleged was built upon the birthplace of the Hindu god, Ram.
Hindu nationalists demolished the 16th-century Mughal-era mosque, claiming that it belonged to Hindus and not the Muslims who had been worshipping at the site since 1949.
Responding to the decision by the Supreme Court, BJP Minister Bharti struck a defiant tone.
"There is no conspiracy. Yes, I was there in Ayodhya on 6 December (when the mosque was demolished). ... Why should I regret it? I was involved in the Ayodhya incident. I remain unrepentant."
For two decades, Indian courts have been trying to resolve the dispute. In 2010, the court decided that two-thirds of the 2.7-acre site should be allocated to Hindus and the remaining third to Muslims, citing an archaeological survey that found evidence of “a massive Hindu religious structure” there, according to The Guardian.
Supreme Court judges claim the trial should be completed within two years.