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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
'No sign' of Ayodhya temple
By Adam Mynott
BBC South Asia correspondent

World Hindu Council leader Praveen Togadia (right) greets Hindu spiritual leader Ramachandra Paramhans
Hindu hardliners want to build a temple in Ayodhya
There have been widespread reports across the Indian media that the excavation of a disputed holy site in India has produced no evidence of a Hindu temple, according to archaeologists' progress reports.

Independent archaeologists have been employed to try to determine whether the site at Ayodhya in northern Uttar Pradesh state belongs to Hindus or Muslims.

Archaeologists have spent the past three months tunnelling and digging and scraping away at earth beneath the site of a former mosque at Ayodhya.

In an interim report, the Archaeological Survey of India says it has not found any evidence of ruins of a Hindu temple.

The site in the northern Indian town has been at the centre of an angry dispute between Hindus and Muslims for decades.

'Vote winner'

Babri mosque: Pulled down in 1992

In 1992 Hindu fanatics tore down the 16th century Babri mosque, claiming that it had been built on the exact spot where the Hindu God Ram had been born.

This resulted in riots in which about 3,000 people were killed.

More archaeological research is to be done at the site, but the interim results will come as a big disappointment to hardline Hindu groups in India.

It will also be a setback to the BJP party which leads the ruling coalition government in India.

Ayodhya has been seen as a potential vote-winner nationally and in state elections in Uttar Pradesh.

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