India ramps up security before Ayodhya verdict
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A court judgment due in India on Thursday threatens to reignite religious tensions when it rules whether Hindus or Muslims own land at a holy site in the town of Ayodhya.
Thousands of police are on guard around the north Indian town of Ayodhya - home to the 16th century Babri mosque, which was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992.
The mosque’s destruction sparked violence which left 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.
The High Court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh will rule on who owns the site in a judgement that is feared could spark violence ahead of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi which start on Sunday.
The government has issued public appeals for calm ahead of the verdict and Bollywood stars loaned their voices to the petition.
“Let there be peace and harmony. No religion tells us to have disputes with each other or have any type of violence,” said Amitabh Bachchan, the country’s biggest film star.
India has avoided any major outbreak of Hindu-Muslim violence since riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 and Home Minister P Chidambaram expressed his belief Wednesday that “India has moved on”.
This will be put to the test when the High Court announces its verdict.
Hindus say the Babri mosque was built by the Moghul emperor Babur on the site of a temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu warrior god Ram. They want to build a Ram temple on the site.
Any ruling is likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court, so the 60-year dispute is almost certain not to end here.