AYODHYA MOSQUE This mosque-also known as the Babri mosque, because it was constructed by Babar, the first Mughul emperor of India-had been the target of attacks by Hindu nationalists for some time The mosque was constructed in the 16th century by the Muslim conquerors of northern India on a site that Hindus believe to be the birthplace of the god Rama The mosque had long been a symbol of Islamic repression for those Hindus who believed that the Muslims had been singularly insensitive about their religion It became a symbol of Hindu nationalism when it was razed by Hindu zealots in December 1992 The demolition of the mosque was encouraged by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) The destruction of the mosque led to the eruption of communal violence all over India, sparking nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 2,000 people in the worst sectarian violence since the killing of Sikhs after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 The Ayodhya mosque may have contributed to the poor showing of the Indian National Congress Party in the elections held in May 1996, when Prime Minister P V Nasarimha Rao suffered a humiliating defeat, in part, it was said, because he lost the confidence of the important Muslim vote Up until then, India’s Muslims, constituting 12

5 percent of the population, had faithfully supported the Congress Party They were comfortable with the secular stance of the party, as compared to the more Hindu militancy of some of the opposition parties, in particular the BJP Rao, however, forfeited this trust in the way he handled the Ayodhya mosque incident The loss of the Muslim vote was a major cause of the decline of the Congress Party as a political force in the country In spite of strenuous efforts, the party failed to recover the ground it had lost in the elections of 1996, when the country went back to the polls in 1998 See also ADVANI, LAL KRISHNA

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