- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

NEW DELHI, March 5 (UPI) — An Indian court Wednesday ordered the excavation of a 16th-century mosque site to determine if there was a temple at the location.

The Allahabad High Court directed the Archaeological Survey of India to carry out the excavation of the site at Ayodhya to find out if there was temple at the site before a mosque was built.

Hindus want to build a temple at the disputed Babri Masjid site saying it was the birthplace of their god Ram. They also claim Muslim rulers in 16th century razed the temple to build a mosque at the site.

After years of dispute, Hindu zealots tore down the Babri Masjid in 1992, sparking nationwide religious riots that left more than 2,800 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

India's Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and another Cabinet minister are accused of lending support to the Hindu radical mob that razed the mosque using hammers, sickles and bare hands.

The dispute has been lingering in the Indian courts since 1994 and the Supreme Court has banned any construction on the site. However, Hindus have made a makeshift temple at the site.

Hindu hard-liners have been campaigning for an early court hearing to begin constructing a temple at Ayodhya. India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has urged the Supreme Court to lift the ban on construction at the site. The case will come up for hearing Thursday.

Hindus comprise nearly 82 percent of India's population of more than 1 billion. India's is also home to world's second-largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

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