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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Minister testifies on Ayodhya attack
LK Advani (left) arrives at the court in New Delhi
Mr Advani described the destruction of the mosque as unfortunate
From Ayanjit Sen in Delhi

The Indian Home Minister, LK Advani, has appeared for the first time before a commission investigating the destruction of a 16th century mosque nine years ago.


The incident sparked off India's worst communal riots and left nearly 3,000 people dead

The mosque was destroyed by a predominantly Hindu mob in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya.

Mr Advani is one of the three members of the federal cabinet who have been charged by the police in connection with the destruction of the mosque.

The incident sparked off India's worst communal riots and left nearly 3,000 people dead.

Mr Advani told the Liberhan Commission on Tuesday that in their impatience, Hindu hardliners took to "a wrong course".

Political controversy

He said that the hardliners might have demolished the mosque because they felt they had no other way of building a temple which they believed they were entitled to do by law.

Indian soldiers guard Babri mosque
The mosque was razed nine years ago
Mr Advani described the destruction of the mosque as unfortunate for the country and also for the cause of his Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, condemned the razing of the mosque.

But he triggered a political controversy in December when he said efforts to build the temple reflected national sentiment.

The prime minister also refused to sack three ministers - Murli Manohar Joshi, LK Advani and Uma Bharti - who are among the 47 people accused in the case.

The Hindus who pulled down the Babri mosque argued it was built over an earlier temple of the Hindu god Ram, which they want to rebuild.

But this claim is contested by Muslims, and the dispute over the site is still mired in India's legal system.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | South Asia
Uproar in Indian parliament
12 Feb 01 | South Asia
Trial for Ayodhya accused
19 Dec 00 | South Asia
Ayodhya defeat for Vajpayee
06 Dec 97 | Despatches
Hindu nationalists march on Ayodhya
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