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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Hindus intensify temple campaign
The 'Babri' mosque before its destruction
Hard-line Hindus say the God Ram was born there

India's Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu organisation, is intensifying its controversial campaign to build a temple at a disputed site in the northern town of Ayodhya.

A senior VHP leader, Ashok Singhal, has demanded that the disputed land be handed over to the organisation under special legislation without any court proceedings.

VHP activists, who say the God Ram was born at the site, pulled down a 16th century mosque there in 1992, and in the communal riots that followed, several thousand people were killed.

The site has been under the care of state authorities pending a court decision, while hard-line activists prepare stone carvings which they plan to install at a temple they want to build there.

The VHP is planning to hold an emergency meeting later this month to decide its next course of action.

Excavation opposed

Muslims reject the VHP's claim over the site and want the mosque to be rebuilt.

Artisan carves a column for the temple they hope to build in Ayodhya
The VHP plans to build a "grand temple"
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, the VHP president said the dispute over the birthplace of the Hindu God Ram was beyond the court's jurisdiction.

Mr Singhal said despite Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's efforts, the long-running dispute could not be resolved through dialogue.

He said the only way out was to hand over the site to Hindus by means of a special legislation.

Earlier this year, the VHP had offered a compromise: it agreed to accept the verdict of a court trying to resolve the dispute. To expedite the verdict, the court has already started daily hearings on the case.

Recently, the court sought the views of all parties to the dispute about proposals to dig up the site to find out whether any ancient temple pre-existed the mosque.

The VHP strongly opposed the suggestion.

Polarising opinion

A makeshift temple has been functioning at the site since the mosque was pulled down. The VHP wants to replace it with what its leaders call a grand temple.

The dispute has gone on for more than 50 years and it has led to violent riots several times.

The VHP is an important ally of Prime Minister Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party.

Observers say the motive behind the VHP's efforts to revive its temple agitation is to polarise Hindu opinion in favour of the BJP.

Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

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