Thousands of Hindus, including monks, have gathered in the Indian capital of New Delhi to participate in a demonstration calling for the construction of a temple on the site of a historical mosque demolished by Hindu extremists in 1992.
The demonstrators, linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), urged the government on Sunday to build a temple on the ruins of the 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya Town in northern Uttar Pradesh State.
The calls for the temple come ahead of an election scheduled to be held by May 2019, when Modi will seek a second term.
A group of militant Hindu mobs destroyed the historical mosque in 1992, triggering communal riots that claimed the lives of about 2,000 people across India.
Most Hindus believe the warrior-god Ram — also known as Ramachandra — was born in Ayodhya, and Hindu groups claim that there was a temple there before a mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528.
Late last month, tens of thousands of Hindus gathered in Ayodhya to press for their demand for the temple.
India’s history is pockmarked by horrific Hindu-Muslim communal clashes.
Several incidents of violence against Muslims and other minority groups in recent years have raised concerns that religious intolerance is growing under the ruling Hindu nationalist government.
Human Rights Watch and activist groups have expressed concern about rising brutal attacks in the country by self-appointed “cow vigilantes” against Muslims and lower castes over rumors that they trade or kill cows for beef.
Cow vigilantism by pro-Hindu groups has surged in India since the Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014.