|A Hindu mob attacked the mosque in 1992, claiming it was the site of a razed Hindu temple [AFP]|
The demolished Babri mosque complex in India’s northern city of Ayodhya has been one of the most disputed religious sites in the world for more than 400 years.
Constructed in 1528 by order of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, the mosque was torn down on December 6, 1992 by Hindu nationalists who claim that the site is where their deity, Lord Ram, was born.
Some Hindus say Babur built the mosque after destroying an existing Hindu temple at the site.
Shortly after India’s independence from British colonial rule in 1947, a group of right-wing Hindus filed a petition in the Allahabad high court in Uttar Pradesh state where Ayodhya is located.
They demanded the complex be handed over to them so that the temple to Ram could be reconstructed, although little came of their efforts.
The issue remained low-key until the late 1980s when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rekindled it as part of a strategy to garner political support from India’s Hindu population.
The BJP took to the streets demanding the complex be handed over to them for “reconstruction” of the Ram temple.
In December 1992, tens of thousands of Hindus, led by then-BJP president Lal Krishna Advani and many senior BJP leaders, gathered at Ayodhya.
The leaders reportedly lost control of the situation and mobs attacked the three-dome structure, razing it to the ground in a matter of hours.
The incident sparked a series of massive riots, which lead to the deaths of thousands of people.
Years later, the Allahabad court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to dig beneath the disputed site to determine whether ruins of a temple exist under the rubble.
The ASI said its 2003 survey, conducted with hi-tech radar technology, did indeed reveal remnants of a temple below the compound.
But many Muslims strongly criticised the report, saying that it was biased and failed to provide adequate evidence.
An inquiry into the destruction of the mosque in 1992 blamed leading BJP politicians for the violence that followed.
Now, on Thursday at 1530 local time (1000 GMT), a high court ruling in the Ayodhya case is due to be announced in the city of Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh state, on whether the land of the religious site belongs to Muslims or Hindus.
Three judges will give the verdict, two of them are Hindu and one is Muslim.