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Indian Opposition Leader Charged in Demolition of Mosque

India's opposition leader, Lal Krishna Advani, has been charged with inciting Hindu mobs to destroy a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya 12 years ago. The mosque stood on a controversial holy site that is claimed by both Hindus and Muslims.

A court in Rae Bareilly town in Uttar Pradesh state charged the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Lal Krishna Advani, with making provocative speeches that incited a mob to tear down the mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.

The demolition of the mosque sparked Hindu-Muslim riots in which more than 2,000 people were killed across the country.

This is the second time Mr. Advani is facing the charge of inciting the demolition of the mosque. In 2003, when he was the country's deputy prime minister, the charges against him were dismissed. But earlier this month, a High Court overturned that ruling.

Seven other top leaders of the BJP are also facing trial in the case.

Mr. Advani and the other BJP leaders have denied the allegations and say they are politically motivated. But Muslim groups say the demolition of the mosque was a planned move.

The destruction of the mosque followed a controversial campaign by the BJP and hardline Hindu groups to build a temple on the site of the mosque, which many Hindu activists say was built in the 16th century on the birthplace of their God Rama. The campaign helped to raise the party's popularity.

After his court appearance, Mr. Advani told cheering supporters he would persevere with efforts to build a temple on the site. Mr. Advani says the biggest goal before him is to ensure that a temple is constructed on the birthplace of Lord Rama.

Political analysts say Mr. Advani hopes to revive the temple issue to gain the support of hardline Hindu groups who have recently accused him of abandoning the Hindu ideology of his party.

The Ayodhya temple-mosque issue continues to be one of India's most contentious religious disputes, as Hindus and Muslims both claim ownership of the site. Earlier this month, six gunmen stormed the complex, prompting a countrywide alert against sectarian violence.