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Head of Hindu Nationalist Party Arrested : India: The government charges him and other party officials with inciting mob violence in 1992 razing of mosque.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the danger of voter backlash now safely behind it, the government Tuesday arrested the chief of India’s largest Hindu nationalist party on charges of inciting mob violence.

Lal Krishna Advani, president of the Bharatiya Janata (Indian People’s) Party, was detained with six other BJP leaders in the city of Lucknow. Sources told the United News of India that the arrested men were bundled off to spend the night on a game sanctuary.

The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation has charged 40 people, including Advani and former BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi, with involvement in an extensive conspiracy that allegedly led to the demolition of a mosque at Ayodhya by thousands of Hindu zealots Dec. 6, 1992.

In a public statement, Advani said the bureau’s accusations were “factually spurious, legally untenable and politically mala fide . . . . The CBI had to concoct a bagful of lies to sustain the government’s cock-and-bull story.”

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Advani, who is a member of the Indian Parliament, told the chamber Monday--the first anniversary of the mosque’s razing--that that event had been an “unfortunate act.” But the BJP has specifically refrained from condemning the destruction, which its leaders assert was the “spontaneous” doing of Hindu militants. It caused India’s worst Muslim-Hindu violence since the end of British rule.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, a branch of the Home Ministry, had postponed bringing the charges against Advani and his comrades until elections wound up in states across northern India last week. The balloting, in which the BJP lost control of three of four states, was a pratfall for the party and its cause. Advani’s party was even swept out of office in Uttar Pradesh, home to Ayodhya.

Advani’s allies reacted with anger and dismay to news of his arrest. “These are charges that are politically motivated,” senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh fumed in an interview. The leader of the single largest opposition party in India’s Parliament, Singh charged, was now a “political prisoner.”

Details of the charges against Advani were not immediately available in New Delhi, but BJP officials familiar with the case said the bespectacled lawyer and journalist could face a seven- to 10-year prison term if convicted.

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“But I’m 100% confident that the case will be thrown out at the earliest possible moment,” Singh said.

But Singh worried that the government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao of the rival Congress Party, with its “usual efficiency,” might let Advani and the others languish in custody for six months before bringing them to trial.

“Let the highest court in the land rule, and let it rule with dispatch,” Singh demanded.

A vegetarian who leads a Spartan personal life, Advani has cannily used video technology, professional actors and automobiles to promote the cause of Hindu nationalism in multicultural India.

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Thanks to such techniques, the BJP’s representation in India’s Parliament soared from two seats in 1984 to 119 at present.

The judge in Lucknow offered to free Advani if he signed a pledge of good conduct, but he refused, following the example of thousands of Indian nationalists brought up before British judges, Singh said.

Also arrested were Kalyan Singh, former BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, and Joshi, who headed the BJP at the time of the events in Ayodhya, according to news reports.


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