India Insight

Indian report raps politicians over Ayodhya mosque destruction

A government-backed inquiry has accused several of India’s top opposition politicians of having a role in the destruction of an ancient mosque in 1992 that triggered some of the country’s worst religious riots.

The report has sparked political protests from opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which finds itself in even more trouble as it struggles to emerge from internal feuding after an election defeat in May.

Hindu mobs demolished the 16-century Babri Mosque in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, claiming it stood on the birthplace of their god-king Rama. Riots between Hindus and Muslims left hundreds dead across India.

The report, 17 years in the making, says some of India’s best known BJP politicians — including former Prime Minister Aal Behari Vajpayee and current opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani — did little to stop the destruction despite knowing of plans to demolish it.

Here is our news story on the report and a Q&A explaining the background.

Caste and Race: Two sides of the same coin?

The attack in a  Sikh temple in Vienna and the subsequent clashes in Punjab have brought renewed focus on the internationalisation of what many Indians see as a domestic problem.

In August 2001, I heard Martin Macwan, a human rights activist, talk about raising the issue of caste at international forums, specifically in the context of the U.N. race summit in Durban that year. The move was however opposed by the government.

Macwan spoke movingly about how fellow activists had been killed while agitating for their rights.

Is caste behind the killing in Vienna and riots in Punjab?

Why did the murder of a preacher in a Sikh temple in Vienna spark riots in the faraway Indian state of Punjab, in which thousands took to the streets to torch cars, trains and battle security forces?

The root cause may lie in India’s caste system that Sikhism officially rejects, but that still grips swathes of India’s billion-plus people, including in Sikh-dominated Punjab state in northwestern India.

“Via Vienna, Sikh caste war returns, sets Punjab aflame” ran the headline of the Hindustan Times.

Varun Gandhi – politics of “hate” from politician of tomorrow?

The black sheep of India’s most powerful political dynasty or a young politician making his own way in that family’s most potent political rival?

Call him what you will, Varun Gandhi is grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons in an episode that could embarrass his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party at the start of a general election campaign.

The great-grandson of India’s founding father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was allegedly caught out making inflammatory comments against Muslims at a recent rally.

Time to train India’s police in riot control

Time and time again, India’s police react to riots by using live ammunition and protesters are killed. Occasionally there is a public outcry, as there was after deaths in Kalinganagar and Nandigram, yet seldom can I remember officers being dismissed or prosecuted.Ethnic Gujjars sit near the bodies of those who died during clashes with the police at Bayana village, in Bharatpur district in India’s desert state of Rajasthan May 24, 2008. Thousands of agitators from the Gujjar community organised a stoppage of train services to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe status, which will entitle them to government jobs and college seats. REUTERS/Vinay Joshi (INDIA)In Rajasthan over the past few days, the police appear to have shot and killed more than 30 rioting Gujjars . True, their provocation may have been extreme — one policeman lynched, another police station attacked.

But was the death of so many, apparently unarmed, people really necessary?

A judicial inquiry has been ordered and I look forward to its conclusions.

In the meantime, I wonder if it is time the Indian government spent some time and some money in training its own police in how to quell unruly mobs without having to kill people.

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