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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 14:12 GMT
Survey aims to settle Ayodhya row
A Hindu holy man and paramilitary soldier in Ayodhya
A court must decide the future of the site

A team of surveyors has begun work at Ayodhya in northern India to try to settle conflicting claims to the religious site there.

The ground x-ray survey was ordered by a court which is trying to determine whether Hindus or Muslims can claim ownership of the site.

The Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by a Hindu mob in December 1992.

The survey will try to verify Hindu claims that the mosque had been built over an ancient temple.

Makeshift temple

The long dispute over the land has taken thousands of lives in sectarian riots.

Scenes of the Babri mosque riots in 1992
Nationwide, over 2,000 died in the Babri riots
Many Hindus believe the mosque was built by an order of a Muslim ruler in the 16th century after destroying an ancient temple which marked the birthplace of the Hindu god, Lord Ram.

Hardline Hindus put up a makeshift temple on the ruins of the disputed mosque, and are now demanding the land be handed over to them so that they can build a large temple.

Muslims dispute this claim and want a judicial verdict on the land.

Among other complex issues the court has to decide is whether Lord Ram was born at the site.

Initially, the court had proposed archaeological excavations, but the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) vehemently opposed the idea.

Jurisdiction dispute

The court then ordered a Ground Penetrating Radar Magnetometer survey - essentially an x-ray of the disputed area to find out whether any ancient building exists.

Ayodhya temple
Hardline Hindus refused to allow an archaeological dig

It is now being conducted by a private company under the supervision of a senior official of the Archaeological Survey of India.

An area of 100 by 100 feet is being surveyed.

However, the 10 by 10 foot section in the makeshift temple where idols of Lord Ram are kept will not be touched.

The survey team is to submit its report to the court before 25 January.

However, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders dispute the court's jurisdiction and want the land to be handed over to them.

They say it is an issue of faith beyond the court's powers.

But all the political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, have rejected their demands, saying the issue should be decided by the judicial process.

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Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

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06 Dec 02 | South Asia
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