NEW DELHI--India's high-profile science minister has resigned after being accused of helping to foment a deadly religious riot in 1992.
Murli Manohar Joshi has submitted his resignation after an Indian court implicated him and other leaders of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in connection with the 6 December 1992 attack on the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. The Hindu party leaders acknowledge that they were present on the day Hindu mobs tore down the mosque, triggering a nationwide melee that killed about 1000 people. But they say that they did not direct or in any way influence events. On 10 October Joshi and six others will face formal charges, including rioting and spreading communal frenzy, that carry lengthy prison terms and hefty fines.
Joshi called last week's court's decision "unfortunate" and dismissed allegations about his role in the 1992 incident as "baseless." But he left himself little room to maneuver after pledging one day before the court's announcement that he would step down if the court implicated him. At press time Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee was traveling and had not accepted Joshi's resignation. Some observers called for his departure: "Allowing those with criminal charges against them to occupy ministerial office would undermine the very principles on which the edifice of parliamentary democracy is built," editorialized The Hindu, India's leading national daily paper.
The 69-year-old Joshi, a former physics professor, is the first scientist to have held the rank of cabinet minister. An acknowledged Hindu scholar and ardent supporter of the Hindu cause, Joshi has been minister for human resource development and science since the BJP took office in 1998. Since then he has won steady funding increases for research and presided over the adoption of a new Indian science and technology policy (Science, 15 March 2002, p. 1993  and 10 January 2003, p. 187 ).