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Delhi seeks Ayodhya worship ban end


BBC on line:

The Indian Government has urged the Supreme Court to lift a ban on worship at a site in the northern town of Ayodhya, where a Hindu mob demolished an ancient mosque.

The government filed its petition after talks between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and a leading Hindu cleric, Jayendra Saraswathi, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

The 16th century Babri mosque was destroyed by Hindu hardliners in December 1992, and both Hindus and Muslims claim the site as their own.

The long dispute over the land has taken thousands of lives in sectarian riots.

On Wednesday, India's main governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the government to hand over land adjacent to the disputed site for construction of a Hindu temple.

The party's president, Venkaiah Naidu, says he wants legal hurdles removed so Hindus can build on land which is not disputed.

Lost lives

Jayendra Saraswati has been trying to find a peaceful settlement to the row, after the Supreme Court banned all religious activity at the site last year to avoid Hindu-Muslim clashes.

A court injunction is in force banning construction on the disputed site, and on land adjacent to it.

Mr Saraswati's talks on Tuesday with Mr Vajpayee were aimed at easing tensions, after the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) demanded the land be handed over to them by 22 February.

Many Hindus believe the mosque was built under the orders of a Muslim ruler in the 16th century after destroying an ancient temple which marked the birthplace of the Hindu god, Lord Ram.

'X-ray' argument

Among other complex issues the court has to decide is whether Lord Ram was born at the site.

The court even ordered a Ground Penetrating Radar Magnetometer survey - essentially an X-ray of the disputed area to find out whether any ancient building exists.

However, VHP leaders dispute the court's jurisdiction, and have threatened to start a nationwide campaign for the return of the disputed plot.

But all the political parties, including Mr Vajpayee's BJP, have rejected their demands, saying the issue should be decided by the judicial process.

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