January 2, 2019 / 3:32 PM / in 20 days

Hardline Hindus push Modi to allow temple on disputed Indian site

FILE PHOTO: A worker engraves a stone that Hindu groups say will be used to build a Ram temple at a disputed religious site in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, November 6, 2018. Picture taken November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hindu nationalists linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party urged him on Wednesday to push through laws to allow the building of a temple on the ruins of a 16th century mosque, a flashpoint in tensions with minority Muslims.

A long-running dispute over the site in the northern town of Ayodhya has flared back into life in recent months in the build-up to national elections due before May.

The Supreme Court is weighing petitions from both communities on what should be built there and Modi told Reuters partner ANI on Tuesday that the judicial process should take its course.

A day later, Alok Kumar, the international working president of Vishva Hindu Parishad, responded: “The Supreme Court is taking its own sweet time and Hindus can’t wait endlessly to see a temple there.”

“We’ll persuade the government of Prime Minister Modi to issue legislation to start the process of a grand temple in Ayodhya,” he told journalists. He wanted the legislation in place before the government’s term ends, he added.

A Hindu crowd tore down the mosque in 1992, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people across India, in one of the worst instances of communal violence since the partition of the country in 1947.

Vishva Hindu Parishad, also known as the World Hindu Council, has been spearheading a campaign over the past three decades to build a temple on the site of what Hindus say is the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of their most revered deities.

Over the past few months, the group allied to Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has organized rallies of tens of thousands of activists, monks and other supporters, at a time of growing political and cultural tensions.

At the other end of the country from Ayodhya, in the southern state of Kerala, two women defied a centuries-old ban on entering a Hindu temple on Wednesday, sparking protests and calls for a strike by conservative Hindu groups outraged by their visit.

Editing by Martin Howell and Andrew Heavens

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