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Indian Hindu group expects 300,000 at temple rallies
[NEW DELHI] Some 300,000 Indians are expected to rally this weekend to press for a Hindu temple to be built at a disputed site where a mosque was destroyed in 1992, organisers said Thursday.
The demolition by mobs of the mosque at Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh sparked nationwide riots in which thousands were killed, most of them Muslims.
Many Hindus believe the Babri Mosque was only built after the destruction of a temple on the same spot that marks the birthplace of their god Ram, and the issue remains hugely divisive.
With legal wranglings dragging on for years, the right-wing nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants parliament to pass a law for the construction of the temple.
On Sunday it expects 300,000 people to attend three rallies - in Ayodhya, in Nagpur in central India and in Bangalore in the south, a spokesman said.
"We hope that these meetings will remove roadblocks to the construction of the Ram temple and force the politicians, especially in the opposition, to support any move (in favour of the temple) inside the parliament," Vinod Bansal told AFP.
The VHP is linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when it backed the movement for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The promise for construction of a temple has since prominently figured in several BJP campaigns, especially in the bellwether Uttar Pradesh state, which it rules with an absolute majority.
Mr Modi - who will be up for re-election within months - faces some disquiet from his core supporters who feel that he has not done enough for the cause, despite his parliamentary majority.