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Babri Mosque

The Babri Mosque (also Babri Masjid) was a mosque constructed by the Muslim emperor of India Babar in Ayodhya in the 16th century. It is alleged that Babar destroyed an existing temple at the site, which many Hindus believe was the temple built to commemorate the birthplace of Rama, a mythical figure who Hindus believe was an incarnation of Vishnu and ruler of Ayodhya.

The mosque was used by Muslims as a prayer site until 1947, when Hindu activists, who wished to see it replaced with a Rama temple, broke in and placed statues of Rama inside the mosque. Following this, the state government ordered the mosque sealed.

In 1986 the mosque was reopened by a lower court at the request of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, "World Hindu Council") to allow Hindus to worship there.

In 1990, Lal Krishna Advani, a top member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began a campaign tour (a rathayatra, or "chariot-journey") to build support for a Rama temple at the mosque site. The VHP also negotiated with the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC), an organisation created to represent the interests of Muslims in the mosque, over the site, each presenting evidence to the court of their claims to the site.

The mosque was destroyed on December 6, 1992, by a crowd of nearly one million activists (karsevaks) of the VHP and other associated groups. The destruction occurred at the end of Advani's rathayatra, and there is some evidence that it was pre-planned by Hindu nationalist groups.

Following the destruction of the mosque, communal riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims across India, including in Mumbai (Bombay), which was a largely secular and cosmopolitan city. It is generally accepted that the campaign to build the Rama temple and the destruction of the mosque was responsible for the BJP's meteoric rise to power.

Since then, the AIBMAC has been campaigning to have the mosque rebuilt at the same site, while the VHP has been moving forward with plans to build a Rama temple there. In December 2002 the VHP announced that it would construct the temple in a year and a half (i.e., mid 2004).

See also: Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindutva, All India Babri Masjid Action Committee