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Investigation of Mosque Demolition Sparks Dispute in India's Parliament

India's new parliament session got off to a raucous start when a bitter dispute broke out between opposition lawmakers and government ministers. The argument centered on a criminal investigation of the demolition of an ancient mosque more than a decade ago.

On the first day of India's monsoon legislative session, opposition lawmakers accused the government of trying to evade justice and of protecting top ministers against criminal charges.

The opposition shouted down government ministers, and some lawmakers rushed to the center of the chamber, as Law Minister Arun Jaitley got up to respond to the accusation.

The dispute focuses on a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the demolition in 1992 of the Babri Mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya. Hindu zealots destroyed the 16th century mosque, saying they were reclaiming land on which a Hindu temple had previously stood. The action sparked Muslim-Hindu rioting throughout the country, in which more than 2,000 people were killed.

Prosecutors said a number of senior members of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP, are implicated in the affair. Several government ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, stand accused of having incited the mobs and of spreading communal violence.

The case has dragged on for years, and the opposition says the government has influenced the investigation and exerted pressure to have the criminal charges against the ministers dropped. That caused the uproar in during the parliamentary session, and led the speaker to adjourn the session until Tuesday.

Hindu nationalists claim the Babri mosque was built on a holy site, where the god Ram was born. They demand that a new Hindu temple be built on the site. On Saturday, the BJP said it supports such demands. But such a move is deemed unlikely to win the necessary support in parliament.