Security heightened at Babri site ahead of mass gathering

Security heightened at Babri site ahead of mass gathering

Indian authorities will launch a major security operation at the ruins of 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya on Sunday when tens of thousands of Hindu monks and religious leaders gather to urge the government to build a new Hindu temple on the disputed site.

Organisers had expected 300 000 demonstrators to attend rallies in Ayodhya and two other Indian cities, and busloads of protesters were still arriving into the afternoon.

Ahead of a general election that must be held by May next year, leaders from prime minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its associates have become more vocal in their demand the government introduce legislation paving the way for a new Hindu temple on the site.

Hindu groups say the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to Ram was destroyed by Muslim invaders.

Many Hindus believe a spot there marks the birthplace of Ram and that a medieval mosque that stood there for 460 years was only built after the destruction of an earlier temple.

More than 2,000 died in widespread riots after the mosque was torn down in 1992.

Hindu groups point to evidence there was a temple there before a mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528. "Govt should make law for that", after the Supreme Court had deferred the hearing until January in the title land dispute of Ayodhya.

The calls for the temple construction have regained momentum as the BJP enjoys a majority in national parliament and also in the Uttar Pradesh state assembly. "Bring ordinance or a law but construct temple.the emotions of Hindus should not be taken for granted", Thackeray told reporters in Ayodhya.

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Addressing a "Jan Hunkar" rally at Nagpur, Bhagwat said it had also been proved that the temple was there and therefore the apex court should deliver the verdict on the matter swiftly. "But, we will not wait anymore now".

Mr. Thackeray, who was here with Sena workers ahead of the "Dharma Sabha" organised by the VHP on Sunday, told reporters that the goal of his visit was not politics or elections but to "awaken the sleeping Kumbhakarna".

No untoward incident was reported from any part of the city.

A source said that they received instructions stating that there should be no violation of the status quo at the site, according to a Times of India report.

"BJP is actually exploiting religion sentiments to get votes as the elections in five states have already been announced", Rahmani added.

If constructed, the 221m-high effigy of the Hindu god Ram in the town of Ayodhya could make India home to the world's three tallest statues, with a 212-metre likeness of the medieval ruler Shivaji also now under construction off the coast of Mumbai.

Both Hindu and Muslim groups have petitioned India's Supreme Court to help resolve the issue.

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