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India Court Rejects Claim on Mosque Site • Tuesday April 8, 2003

Associated Press, Apr. 8, 2003

LUCKNOW, India – A court rejected a Buddhist organization’s claim that it owns a northern Indian religious site at the center of a deadly dispute between Hindus and Muslims, an official said Tuesday.

Three judges of the Allahabad High Court in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, ruled Monday that the Lord Buddha Club did not have evidence to back up its claim.

The group, whose 5,000 members are mostly Buddhist converts from India’s poor lower castes, said the town of Ayodhya, 340 miles east of New Delhi, once was a Buddhist city.

“Over 3,000 Buddhist monks used to live there and it is authenticated by the writings of the Chinese travelers of the fifth century,” Lord Buddha Club chairman Udit Raj said.

Ayodhya is where a 16th-century mosque stood before it was destroyed by Hindu hard-liners in 1992. The destruction triggered countrywide Hindu-Muslim rioting and killed thousands of people.

Hindu leaders claim the mosque was built by Muslim rulers atop a temple at the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. Hindu fundamentalists want the temple rebuilt, while Muslim leaders dispute the claim and want to rebuild the mosque.

The same court has asked government archaeologists to look for Hindu ruins at the site. Some archaeologists have said the remnants of a Buddhist sanctuary may be there as well.

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