India has deployed more than 5,000 troops and police in the northern town of Ayodhya in advance of an expected Supreme Court ruling on Saturday over control of a religious site disputed by Hindus and Muslims.
Muslims said they prayed at the medieval era Babri Mosque for centuries until the idol of Ram deity was surreptitiously placed inside the mosque in 1949.
Hindus believe that the mosque was built under Mughal ruler Babur after destroying a Hindu temple. In 1992, Hindu mobs demolished the Babri mosque, and constructed a makeshift temple of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the god Vishnu, who is believed to have been born at the site.
The destruction of the 16th-century mosque sparked nationwide Hindu-Muslim violence that left about 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.
In the decades since it was razed, religious groups have fought in the courts over who should control it.
Authorities fear mass unrest, as thousands of Hindu monks and devotees have been arriving in Ayodhya located in Uttar Pradesh state in anticipation of the judgment of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The Supreme Court has to decide on the appeals against a key 2010 verdict by the High Court which ruled that both groups should split the site, with Hindus granted the lion’s share.
The court had ruled that the disputed area of 2.77 acres (1.12 hectares) be divided into three equal parts, with two-thirds going to the Hindu community and one-third to Muslims.
Sanjay Kapoor, Editor of New Delhi’s Hardnews magazine, said this dispute has changed the politics in the country.
” The entire movement has changed the vocabulary of politics, the [way] people discuss this matter, it has brought BJP as a national force,” Kapoor told Al Jazeera.
“In a certain way this dispute … has changed the way secular India was really conceived in 1947,” he added.