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India Steps Up Security at Disputed Holy Site

June 02, 2002|From Associated Press

AYODHYA, India — Nearly 10,000 paramilitary troops moved into this northern town Saturday after police said an Islamic separatist group threatened to blow up a makeshift Hindu temple at the site of a demolished 16th century mosque.

Security was tightened as thousands of Hindus began arriving in Ayodhya, 345 miles east of New Delhi, to hold a prayer ceremony today close to the ruins of the Babri Masjid mosque razed by Hindu nationalists nearly 10 years ago. That destruction triggered riots that killed more than 2,000 people.

Intelligence reports say a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, planned to attack the temple, where Hindus keep idols of their gods and goddesses, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

The Pakistan-based group has not made a public statement about such plans.

Thousands of Hindus will participate in today's ceremony, concluding 108 days of worshipping fire as an expression of resolve to build a large temple for Lord Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, at the disputed site.

Many Hindus believe that Lord Rama was born at the site and that the mosque was built after the desecration of a temple.

"Each devotee coming to Ayodhya for the ceremony will be physically checked and will have to pass through metal detectors," J.S. Deepak, a top district administrator, said.

"The threat perception is too high keeping in mind the large congregation of devotees and a disturbed border situation," he said, referring to tensions building on the India-Pakistan border over Pakistan's alleged support for militants crossing the border into India to launch attacks.

The temple campaign in Uttar Pradesh state was blamed for triggering another round of religious violence in February that killed nearly 1,000 people in the western state of Gujarat.

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