LUCKNOW, India — Thousands of hard-line Hindus rallied Sunday to demand a Hindu temple be built on a site in northern India where hard-liners in 1992 had attacked and demolished a 16th-century mosque, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence.
The Hindu hard-liners are building pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to move quickly on the issue. Modi had promised to build the temple in 2014 elections that brought him to power. The next national elections are due before May.
Thousands of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in and around Ayodhya, 350 miles east of New Delhi, to prevent any attacks on Muslims, who comprise 6 percent of the town’s more than 55,500 people.
The rally brought Hindu holy men and activists to the town where the Hindu god Ram was believed to have been born.
“Hindus have waited for a long time. They are losing patience,” Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who heads the committee on the disputed land, told the crowd. “The time has come for the government to take a call.”
Shiv Sena’s chief, Uddav Thackeray, said if construction of the temple does not start, Modi’s government would not return to power. “The prime minister has to choose between the temple and the government,” he told reporters.
Hindu fundamentalists with pickaxes and crowbars razed the 16th century Babri Mosque to the ground in December 1992.
Hindu groups say the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to Ram was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
The destruction of the mosque sparked riots across India that left at least 2,000 people dead.