Heavy security was in force at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India Friday, as Hindu right wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) vowed to defy a state government ban to gather in the town.
The demonstrators are planning to renew their calls for the building of a temple at the controversial Babri Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi site.
In December 1992, a large crowd of Hindu activists destroyed the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, claiming that the site was the birthplace of Lord Rama. The demolition resulted in months of communal riots between Hindus and Muslims, in which at least 2000 people lost their lives.
Fearing a similar communal flare up, the UP government has arrested more than a thousand people and put prominent VHP leaders under house arrest and deployed security forces on the streets of Ayodhya.
India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier on Friday slammed the UP government for banning the VHP rally calling it “vote bank politics” and alleging that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was trying to turn the state into Muslim-majority Pakistan.
The VHP is a part of the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella group of Hindu nationalist organizations headed by the right-wing group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS). In 2009, the RSS was indicted as the chief architect of the demolition of the Babri mosque by the Liberhan Commission report.