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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Tight security for Ayodhya ceremony
Indian security
Security personnel carry out checks near the site
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in the north Indian town of Ayodhya for a ceremony by Hindu hardliners near a disputed religious site.

Members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gathered to mark 100 days since the start of a ritual prayer gathering in Ayodhya.

Hindu holy man in Ayodhya
Hindus say Ayodhya is one of their holiest sites
The ceremony passed off peacefully.

VHP activists want to construct a temple on the site of the ruins of a mosque, which was torn down by Hindu hardliners in 1992 sparking widespread communal violence.

They say it marks the site of the birthplace of the revered god Lord Rama, while Muslims say the mosque that stood there was built by one of India's Mughal emperors.

The status of the site is currently the subject of lengthy court hearings to decide who owns the land.

Religious violence

Speaking after their gathering, VHP president Ashok Singhal said plans to build a temple in Ayodhya would be discussed at a meeting in Haridwar later this month.

He also appealed to Hindus to unite against those Muslims who he said were trying to divide India.

Religious tensions have escalated since February, when a Muslim mob attacked a train returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat, killing almost 60 Hindu activists.

At least 900 Muslims died in the violence that erupted in apparent retaliation for the incident.

Hardline Hindus held a ceremony at the disputed Ayodhya site in March, but a massive security operation largely forestalled a feared outbreak of religious violence.

Court proceedings

The Allahabad High Court has to decide whether Lord Rama was born on the site and whether a temple existed there before the mosque was built in the 16th Century.

Muslims have said they will give up their claim to the site if an independent agency proves that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

The central government acquired the entire 67-acre land - comprising the disputed structure and the area adjacent to it - in 1993.

It also requested India's Supreme Court to give a ruling on who had rights of ownership.

However, after 21 months of deliberations, the Supreme Court in 1994 handed responsibility for the decision to the Allahabad High Court.

Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

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See also:

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