“On this day in 1992, during a political rally gone wrong, Hindu militants demolished the sacred Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India, leading to sectarian riots between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities that killed at least 2,000 people.
The substantial 16th century mosque was constructed in 1527 by Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India. It was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in north India with some 31 million Muslims. Babri Mosque was also at the heart of the Ayodhya dispute, a contentious debate in India over access to the plot of land on which the Babri Mosque is built. Muslims revere this land as the location of one of India’s oldest, grandest Mughal-era mosques ever built. Hindus also regard the land as holy, as they believe it is the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. As such, some Hindu extremists had been campaigning to get rid of the Babri Mosque and build a Hindu temple in its place.
On 6 December 1992, several extremist Hindu groups, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), organised a religio-political rally to symbolically begin the building of a new Hindu temple at the sacred site of the Babri Mosque. Some 150,000 people had gathered to watch the ceremonies that would include the laying of the first bricks of a new Hindu temple. After the speakers finished delivering addresses, a mob of Hindu militants stormed the mosque and, largely condoned by the rally’s leaders, began demolishing the sacred Muslim structure using just hammers and their bare hands. According to media reports and video footage, the crowd used hammers to knock down the domes of the mosque, then tore at the bricks with their bare hands. Within a short amount of time, the entire 16th-century Mughal mosque had been totally destroyed. Court orders protecting the mosque went unheeded, and hundreds of extra police who were brought in to protect the mosque stood by and watched as the militants destroyed the sacred site. After the mosque was torn down, the mob turned on journalists recording the scene, then attacked Muslim houses and property in the area.
The act of destruction sent shockwaves throughout the country and triggered some of the worst sectarian violence since India’s 1947 partition. Riots erupted across the country, in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Kanpur, with Hindus and Muslims attacking one another, burning and looting homes, businesses, and places of worship. As a result of the bloody riots, more than 2,000 people died across India.”
Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Caption: Hindu fundamentalists attack the wall of the Babri Masjid Mosque with iron rods.