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India

Supreme Court refuses to delay ruling in Ayodhya dispute

Reuters

India's Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for a ruling on the ownership of a disputed religious site, a verdict that is expected to raise inter-religious tensions just days before the start of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games. Judges will decide on Thursday who owns the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, where Hindus destroyed the Babri mosque in 1992.

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The incident triggered clashes between Muslims and Hindus that left some 2,000 people dead, and continues to provoke strong feelings in India.

A petition was submitted to the Supreme Court to defer a judgement by the High Court of Uttar Pradesh state and allow lawyers to negotiate a settlement.

But on Tuesday, judges dismissed the petition and set the date for the ruling as 30 September.

In anticipation of potential unrest, the national government has issued several appeals for calm and the respect of law, while security has been stepped up in Uttar Pradesh and other areas deemed "communally sensitive".

Yet most people agree that the judgement is long overdue, Teesta Setalvad of Delhi-based rights magazine Communalism Combat told RFI.

"The political climate in the country is very different from what it was 10 years ago, and therefore we should have the delivery of the judgement and no further postponement," she says.

"We've had a spate of religiously-inspired political violence, but in the last seven or eight years, the very language that the right-wing Hindu BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is speaking suggests that the people of the country are not interested."

Hindus say the Babri mosque was built by the Moghul emperor Babur on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu warrior god Ram.

The opposition BJP has made the campaign to build a Ram temple on the mosque's ruins one of its central policies.

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