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1992: Mob rips apart mosque in Ayodhya
A mob of Hindu militants has torn down a mosque and attacked other Muslim targets in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, in one of India's worst outbreaks of inter-communal violence.

The gathering at the mosque began as a religious procession organised by three right-wing Hindu groups, including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Hindu extremists have been campaigning to get rid of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a focus for Hindu-Muslim hostility for decades.

They want to build a Hindu temple in its place, to mark what they believe to be the birthplace of the Hindu warrior king, Lord Ram.

Court order

A court has already ordered that the mosque be protected from demolition.

The leaders of the three parties promised to stand by the court's decision, and said today's demonstration would be limited to a religious ceremony symbolising the laying of the first bricks of a Hindu temple.

But before the ceremony could start, the 200,000-strong crowd broke through police cordons.

They used hammers to knock down the three domes of the mosque, and then tore at the bricks with their bare hands until the building was totally destroyed.

The government had brought in hundreds of extra police, but eyewitnesses said they stood by and allowed the destruction to take place.

The mob also turned on Indian and foreign journalists recording the scene, before moving on to attack Muslim houses and property in the area.

Backlash feared

The violence has sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Security forces throughout the north are on high alert, fearing a backlash from India's 120 million strong Muslim population, and the government has sent paramilitary reinforcements to the area.

The cabinet met in emergency session and dismissed the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh for failing to protect the mosque.

The state - and its 150 million inhabitants - will be ruled directly from New Delhi.

The Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, has repeatedly appealed for calm in radio and television broadcasts.

"What happened today is a matter of great concern and shame for all Indians," he said.

The leader of the BJP, Lal Krishna Advani, described the incident as "very unfortunate", and appealed to the crowd still at the Babri mosque site to leave.

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Demonstrators on the Babri mosque
Demonstrators tore the mosque down using just hammers and their bare hands

In Context
The destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya triggered some of the worst inter-communal violence since partition in 1947.

More than 2,000 people died in rioting throughout India.

The BJP's leader, LK Advani, resigned as leader of the opposition, accepting "moral responsibility" for the violence.

He subsequently became deputy prime minister in the BJP government of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

He was among seven Hindu leaders ordered to stand trial in 2003 for inciting violence at Ayodhya, but charges against him were dropped.

In government, the BJP distanced itself from its previous hardline agenda, and agreed to leave the Ayodhya issue to the courts.

A panel of three High Court judges is still trying to determine who owns the Babri mosque site.

In February 2002, one of the Hindu groups involved in the 1992 demonstration, the VHP, again called hundreds of volunteers to the site to begin construction of the temple.

A train carrying activists returning from Ayodhya was attacked and at least 58 people killed.

The incident sparked another wave of rioting throughout Gujarat in which up to 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died.

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