Radar probe of disputed mosque site in India gets under way

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2003, 12:00am

Judges in India have resorted to Japanese technology to resolve the centuries-old religious dispute at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh that has claimed the lives of thousands of Hindus and Muslims.

Acting on the orders of the Allahabad high court, an Indian-Japanese firm, Tozo Vikas International, has deployed ground-penetrating radars - which can 'see' as far as 40 metres below the ground - to find out whether a Hindu temple stood at the disputed site in Ayodhya where the Babri mosque was built in 1528.

The findings of the week-long survey, which began on Wednesday, will be submitted to the court by January 25.

Hindu extremists razed the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992, claiming that it was built by a Mughal emperor, Babar, in the 16th century after he had destroyed a Hindu temple. Many Hindus believe a temple was built there. It is reputedly the place where the mythical god-king Ram was born.

Egged on by hardline groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, they are demanding the temple's reconstruction at what they describe as Hinduism's holiest site.

The mosque's demolition sparked religious riots across the country in which more than 2,000 people died.

The federal government has since acquired the entire 27-hectare complex and banned any construction until the dispute is settled.

But as the demolition snowballed into a major political issue, the government submitted the case to India's Supreme Court.

After 21 months of deliberations, the Supreme Court in 1994 referred the case to the Allahabad high court, which has agreed to hand over the contested site to the Archaeological Survey of India for excavations to establish whether a Hindu temple stood there in the 16th century. The VHP, which had opposed the decision, had threatened riots if the excavators so much as touched a makeshift Hindu temple erected at the site. But the Hindu groups finally agreed to the use of the radar - provided the surveyors kept off the temporary temple.

Muslims, however, are not optimistic about the outcome of the case. For one thing, VHP strongman Praveen Togadia has warned that construction of the temple will begin in March irrespective of the survey's findings.