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Indian PM opens temple on site of 16th century mosque dstroyed by Hindu nationalists.

INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers at a ceremony today to mark the construction of a Hindu temple, which is to be controversially built on the site of a demolished 16th-century mosque.

The ceremony was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, being stripped of its semi-autonomous status.

Lal Krishna Advani, a 92-year-old senior figure in the ruling Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who led the 1990s campaign for the temple’s construction in Uttar Pradesh state, welcomed the move.

“It’s an emotional and historic moment. The wait has been worthwhile,” he said.

At least 3,000 paramilitary soldiers were mobilised and security barricades and roadblocks put in place in the city of Ayodhya to prevent disturbances.

Mr Modi offered prayers to Ram, the most revered god in Hindu culture, while wearing the traditional gold kurta, a type of long shirt, what was seen as a hugely symbolic moment.

The Indian premier said that the site had been “liberated” and that a “grand house” would be finally constructed for Ram, who had been living “in a tent for years.”

The BJP pledged in its manifesto to revoke Kashmir’s semi-independent status and build a temple on the site of the Mogul-era mosque.

Muslims make up around 14 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion population and have been the target of pogroms, including violence last year over the status of Kashmir and the controversial citizenship law.

The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by Hindus using pickaxes and crowbars when they attacked the building in December 1992. Some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in subsequent violence.

According to Hindus, the site is the birthplace of Ram. They claim that Muslim emperor Babur built a mosque on top of a temple that existed there.

Muslims fear that the construction of the new temple could lead to the targeting of two other mosques in Uttar Pradesh.

Iqbal Ansari, one of the litigants on the Muslim side in a Supreme Court case concerning the site, said: “The Modi government should assure Muslims that Hindu outfits will not ask for the construction of temples in Varanasi and Mathura after demolishing existing mosques there.”

He attended the ceremony and said that he respected all “sadhus and saints,” but would have preferred a school and hospital to have been built on the site.

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