Thousands of Hindu activists gathered in Delhi on Sunday for a rally demanding the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, two days before Parliament’s winter session begins.
Hindus want the government to introduce a legislation to pave the way for a temple, said Sharad Sharma, spokesman for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a group that has close ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It’s an issue of faith for millions of Hindus who cannot endlessly wait for a temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“It will be a massive gathering which will change the hearts of all those who are not in favour of bringing the bill for construction of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya,” VHP’s spokesperson Vinod Bansal was quoted by PTI as saying.
The BJP and VHP and their parent group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have asked the government to bring out a bill in Parliament to build a temple, bypassing the Supreme Court.
Ahead of Sunday’s rally, police stepped up security, with organisers expecting hundreds to gather at Ramlila Maidan. Police said vehicles will be barred on Ranjeet Singh Flyover (from Guru Nanak Chowk to Barakhambha Road), JLN Marg (from Rajghat to Delhi Gate), Chaman Lal Marg near VIP gate.
The calls for a temple come ahead of Lok Sabha elections that must be held by May 2019, when Modi will seek a second term.
Most analysts expect the BJP to fare far less well than it did in 2014, and critics often accuse the party of using communal issues to whip up support.
In 1992 a Hindu mob tore down the centuries-old mosque in Ayodhya, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people across India in one of the worst outbreaks of communal violence since Partition in 1947.
Both Hindu and Muslim groups have petitioned the Supreme Court to help resolve the issue. The top court has sought more time to give its verdict.
Late last month, tens of thousands of Hindu seers, their followers and political activists had gathered in Ayodhya to press for their demand for a temple.
Earlier this month, a police officer and another man were killed in violent protests in Bulandshahr over reports that a cow had been slaughtered.