In 80, the face of Syed Ikhlaq Latifi is lined and leathery, with a stark white beard. But he is still able to scramble 3 flights of stairs up to his roof to describe what he observed from there, in horror. On Dec. 6, 1992, a lot of broken barricades around Babri Masjid, a sixteenth-century mosque in Latifi’s hometown of Ayodhya in northern India. He points to where the mosque’s 3 massive stone domes used to be. It’s currently an open much, as wide as a soccer area, lined with barbed wire.

The mosque was constructed when India was ruled by the Mughals. They constructed a large number of mosques, temples along with other landmarks all over northern India, including the country’s most famous: the Taj Mahal, which houses the tomb of the emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. On that dreadful day in 1992, Latifi could not comprehend the men in the mob. They were mostly strangers from out of town, he says. They climbed at the top of the domes and graves. They had been taking hammers and these 3 pronged spears. They started hacking in the mosque, Latifi recalls. By night, it was ruined, plus they set fire to neighboring houses.

Latifi viewed as the flames lit up the night sky. Then he and his family fled for their lives. In riots that followed, tens of thousands of individuals were killed across India. When Latifi returned to his neighborhood about six weeks after he fled, he found his home, along with a nearby small mosque and community center, vandalized and burned. He managed to save the small mosque minarets from the rubble and rebuild. To watch the Babri mosque’s destruction, Latifi says, was shocking. But he says he wasn’t surprised. Wait for a Hindu temple. Tough line Hindus had been calling for many years for the Babri mosque to be ruined.

It had been built on the precise spot in Ayodhya where Hindu faithful believe a Hindu god, Lord Ram, was born. Some believe that a Roman temple stood there hundreds of years earlier, though it is a topic of debate between archaeologists. In the late eighties, forecasts for the Babri mosque’s destruction grew. India’s dominant political party in the time, the left-leaning, secular Congress party, was mired in corruption scandals. Hindu nationalists, people who think India should be a Hindu nation, were gaining sway. The old quarter of Ayodhya, where the Babri mosque stood, is home to dozens of Hindu temples dedicated to gods that were related and Lord Ram.

However, many Hindus now want a Ram Mandir, a temple to Lord Ram, to be constructed on the exact same place where the mosque stood. Today, with Hindu nationalists conducting the nation, those forecasts have accumulated traction in the highest level of Indian politics.