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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 12:59 GMT
Ayodhya dig yields first reports
A court in northern India has received a first report on controversial excavations taking place at a holy site claimed by Hindus and Muslims.

Diggers at Ayodhya
Diggers have been working for two weeks
Details of the dig in the town of Ayodhya have not been made public since work started two weeks ago following a court order.

Archaeologists are trying to settle a row over whether the ruins of a Hindu temple lie beneath a 16th century mosque pulled down by Hindu zealots in 1992.

The destruction of the mosque sparked off religious riots across India in which more than 2,000 people died.

Hindus say the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram.

They want to build a new temple on the site.

Competing claims

The court has given no word yet on the archaeologists' report.

On Monday it heard an appeal from Muslims, who want digging at the site to be extended to include the core area of the site now occupied by a makeshift Hindu temple.

Some Indian historians have already raised doubts about the excavation, arguing that it could lead to more historical disputes.

Hindus are optimistic the dig will unearth evidence of temple ruins at Ayodhya.

Muslims warn the work could further complicate things.

Representatives from India's small Jain community have joined in the row, too, saying one of their ancient temples may also have existed in Ayodhya.

Some experts say there may also have been a Buddhist temple there.

Media ban

The 15-member Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team is overseeing the excavations.

Nearly 80 labourers are involved in the dig.

Team members are banned from talking to reporters about their work.

Access to the site has been denied to the media.

The ASI has two weeks to complete its work.

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