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Ayodhya dispute: Indian Supreme Court due to rule on holy site

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India's Supreme Court is due to make a long-awaited ruling on a disputed religious site in the northern holy city of Ayodhya.

Officials have appealed for calm and thousands of police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the city, in Uttar Pradesh state.

Hundreds of people were detained on Friday amid fears of violence.

Hindus and Muslims have for decades been bitterly divided over the 16th Century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya.

The court case centres on the ownership of the land and has been dragging on in the Supreme Court for years.

Hindus believe that the site of the mosque is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities, Lord Ram. Muslims, however, say they have worshipped there for generations.

Provincial police chief Om Prakash Singh told Reuters news agency that social media platforms were being monitored for inflammatory posts ahead of the verdict.

"We will not tolerate Hindus or Muslims publicly displaying their reaction to the court verdict," he said.

Government departments say they have also made preparations to deal with any violence.

"Each and every security officer is committed to prevent minor skirmishes or large-scale riots after the court delivers its verdict," said one senior home ministry official, who declined to be named.

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"State governments have identified several schools to set up temporary jails if the need arises."

Police said on Friday that more than 500 people had been detained in the run up to the verdict and most were being kept in custody.

What is the dispute about?

At the centre of the row is the 16th Century mosque that was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.

Many Hindus believe that the Babri Masjid was constructed on the ruins of a Hindu temple that was demolished by Muslim invaders.

Muslims say they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949 when some Hindus placed an idol of Ram in the mosque and began to worship the idols.

Over the decades since, the two religious groups have gone to court many times over who should control the site.

Since then, there have been calls to build a temple on the spot where the mosque once stood.

Hinduism is India's majority religion and is thought to be more than 4,000 years old. India's first Islamic dynasty was established in the early 13th Century.

Who is fighting the case?

The long and complicated property dispute has been dragging on in various courts for more than a century.

This particular case is being fought between three main parties – two Hindu groups and the Muslim Waqf Board, which is responsible for the maintenance of Islamic properties in India.

The Hindu liRead More – Source