Security alert in India ahead of verdict in Hindu-Muslim dispute over mosque

September 29, 2010

india 1India has put tens of thousands of police on the streets and the air force on high alert ahead of possible violence when a court on Thursday rules on a century-old religious dispute between Hindus and Muslims.

The issue is haunting the ruling Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots, which will have to stand by a verdict that is likely to upset one or other major voter bloc.

(Photo: Rapid Action Force personnel patrol in Allahabad,  September 28, 2010/Jitendra Prakash)

“My humble request is that whatever be the decision, please accept it in the highest tradition of magnanimity,” Sonia Gandhi, Congress party chief and the country’s most powerful politician, said in a statement. Read the full story here.

The government appealed for calm once a northern Indian court decides on the ownership of the site of a 16th century mosque, a communal flashpoint which flared in 1992, triggering some of India’s worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. Hindus and Muslims have quarrelled for more than a century over the history of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Hindus say it stands on the birthplace of their god-king Rama, and was built after the destruction of a Hindu temple by a Muslim invader in the 16th century.

Amid the concern, some leaders say clashes are not inevitable. Home Secretary (Interior Minister) GK Pillai recently said that “India has moved on since 1992. The old scenario has changed, it’s a totally different India. People have shown a much greater maturity now, as seen from the comments whether it’s the Hindu groups or the Muslim groups.” Here he is in an ANI/Reuters video:

Ayodhya town has been looking deserted recently in anticipation of the verdict. Here’s an ANI/Reuters video from the city:

Here is video of the 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque and recent security precautions in Ayodhya:

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