Top leaders of India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as Congress were fully aware of the infamous plot by Hindu extremists to demolish the Babri Masjid mosque in the north Indian town of Ayodhya in 1992, an investigative journalism initiative has revealed.
According to a 'sting' operation by the Cobrapost website, several Hindu stalwarts of the opposition BJP - including former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and former Congress Prime Minister Narasimha Rao - were privy to the planned demolition of the mosque which has been a source of contention between Hindus and Muslims for centuries.
The site of the mosque is believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of the God-king Rama before the Babri Masjid was built by invading Mughals in the 16th Century.
Following India's independence, Hindu groups had campaigned for a temple to be built adjacent to the mosque. The campaign came to a head on 6 December 1992 when hundreds of Hindu volunteers demonstrated at the site and, egged on by speeches by several politicians - including Mr Advani - demolished the mosque.
The demolition led to communal riots across the country resulting in the deaths of thousands and terror attacks including the 1993 Mumbai bombings.
Subsequent government inquiries have established that the destruction of the mosque was a result of an unruly mob getting out of control but many have long suspected senior Hindu leaders of inflaming tensions.
The sting operation by Cobrapost reportedly involved interviews with 23 people who were part of the Ram Janmabhoomi organization, a movement that had led the campaign for the establishment of a Hindu temple near the mosque.
Cobrapost recorded one Ram Janmabhoomi as saying: "Advani had agreed on the idea of felling the structure. It was he who led the processions, addressed the meetings and talked about it everywhere he went."
Another member of the movement told a Cobrapost reporter that former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh had been informed of the plan to demolish the mosque the night before (05 December).
Cobrapost also alleges that several other leaders acknowledged that former Congress Party Prime Minister Rao had the "explicit support" of the plot.
The investigation also reveals that several hundred Hindu activists from a number of nationalist groups affiliated with the BJP had been trained in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh prior to the events of 6 December 1992.
Cobrapost's' claims have not been independently verified.
The BJP has rejected the investigators' claims, saying the sting operation was an attempt to smear its senior leaders ahead of India's general election on 10 April.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS