AYODHYA (Reuters) – More than 200,000 Hindu activists and monks protesting near a disputed religious site in northern India dispersed peacefully on Sunday after demanding the government build a temple at the site of a 16th-century mosque.
A similar rally in 1992 near Ayodhya led to a Hindu mob tearing down the mosque, sparking riots that killed about 2,000 people in one of the worst instances of communal violence in India since the 1947 partition.
Tensions have again been running high ahead of the latest rally, with a heavy security presence at the site.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hindu activists affiliated with it have ratcheted up demands for a temple at the site ahead of a general election due by May next year. Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of warrior-God Lord Ram..
The mosque, which was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528, has been at the center of conflict between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims who constitute 14 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Hindu groups say there was a temple at the site before the mosque was built.
Both Hindu and Muslim groups have petitioned India’s Supreme Court to resolve the issue. But the top court has sought more time and the heavily fortified site, which looks like a small garrison town, is under its control.
The delay has disappointed India’s majority Hindu community, which could not wait endlessly for a verdict, said Sharad Sharma, spokesman for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).