Security tightened ahead of Indian court decision on Ayodhya holy site

By Biswajeet Banerjee, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tight security as India awaits holy site verdict

LUCKNOW, India — Thousands of police and paramilitary forces fanned out across a dozen north Indian cities and towns Wednesday ahead of a potentially explosive court judgment on who should control a disputed holy site, police said.

Authorities used helicopters to keep a vigil on historic sites of violence between Hindus and Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh, said Brij Lal, a top state police officer. The federal government also imposed a temporary, nationwide ban on bulk text messaging which it fears could be used to incite unrest.

The Allahabad High Court is scheduled to rule Thursday in the 60-year-old case on whether the site in the town of Ayodhya should be given to the Hindu community to build a temple to the god Rama or returned to the Muslim community to rebuild the 16th-century Babri Mosque that was razed by Hindu hard-liners in 1992.

The fight over the compound has shaken the core of modern India and led to repeated outbreaks of communal violence that killed thousands of people.

Hindus say that the mosque, built in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, had been erected at the birthplace of Rama.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh published an appeal for calm in ads in Indian newspapers Wednesday.

“There should be no attempt whatsoever made by any section of the people to provoke any other section or to indulge in any expression of emotion that would hurt the feelings of other people,” he said.

The parties to the dispute have also appealed for calm, since the loser in the case will almost certainly appeal in the Supreme Court, meaning a final decision could still be years away.

India’s Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said Wednesday India was now different from in 1990s with a new generation more interested in economic advancement than communal divisions.

He said the ban on text messaging was temporary but did not say how long it would be in effect. He said some people were found to be sending messages trying to incite people.

The government fears that the verdict could set off a repeat of the communal violence that killed 2,000 people in nationwide rioting in 1992 after the Hindu mob tore down the mosque.

There appeared to be little of that tension in Uttar Pradesh so far, said Lal.

Still, nearly 190,000 police and paramilitary soldiers have been deployed across the state to prevent any violence after the verdict, Chidambaram said.

The lower court had been scheduled to issue its ruling last Friday, but the Supreme Court deferred that ruling so it could hear arguments on whether a decision on the 150-year-old dispute should be delayed further to allow the two communities a chance to settle it amicably.

On Tuesday, India’s highest court cleared the way for a verdict by rejecting the plea to delay the judgment.

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