LUCKNOW – As Hindus prepare to celebrate the groundbreaking of a long-awaited temple at a disputed ground in northern India, Muslims say they have no firm plans yet to build a new mosque at an alternative site they were granted to replace the one torn down by Hindu hard-liners decades ago.
Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony follows a ruling by India’s Supreme Court last November favoring the building of a Hindu temple on the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh state. Hindus believe their god Ram was born at the site and claim that the Muslim Emperor Babur built a mosque on top of a temple there.
The 16th century Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by Hindu hard-liners in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left some 2,000 people dead. The Supreme Court's verdict paved the way for the building of a temple in place of the demolished mosque.
The court also ordered that Muslims be given 5 acres (2 hectares) of land to build a new mosque at a nearby site. But the ruling disappointed Muslims, who comprise around 14% of Hindu-majority India’s 1.3 billion people.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay five silver bricks as the temple foundation amid the chanting of Hindu religious hymns. Houses and other buildings close to the temple site in the city of Ayodhya are being painted yellow to recreate the look when the Hindu god Ram ruled there for thousands of years, according to the Hindu epic Ramayana.
More than 100,000 oil lamps will light up the city in celebration, said chief priest Satyendra Das.
A security clampdown, however, will allow only limited entry to Hindu devotees into the city because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, a priest and 15 police officers in the area tested positive for the virus.
As ordered by the Supreme Court, the Uttar Pradesh state government set up a trust last week for the building of a new mosque at a nearby site, in a village 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the spot where the Babri mosque was demolished by Hindu radicals.