Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Heightened security ahead of construction of temple on bitterly contested religious site

Authorities had orders an increased police presence on the streets of Ayodhya, where Hindu groups will next week begin building a temple on a site contested by Muslims for decades and which had sparked some of the bloodiest communal violence in India.

The Supreme Court of India ruled last year that Hindus, who believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, will be allowed to build a temple there.

Hindus say the site was sacred for them, long before the Muslim Mughals — India’s most prominent Islamic rulers — built the Babri Mosque there in 1528. The court said Muslims will be given another plot of land for a mosque.

In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century mosque on the site, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country. Court battles over the ownership of the site followed.

Since the court ruling last year, tension has eased and Muslims, who make up about 12% of overwhelmingly Hindu India, have largely accepted the decision.

Nevertheless, authorities in Ayodhya ordered police to patrol the streets and for barricades to be set up to prevent big crowds gathering next week.

Meanwhile, at a nearby facility, preparations were underway for a large amount of sweets to be distributed on a ceremony marking the start day of the construction of the temple on August 5th. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose ruling Bharatiya Janata Party campaigned for more than three decades for the temple, has been invited to lay the temple’s foundation stone during the ceremony.

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