Beliefnet
Lucknow, India, Mar. 22--(AP) Hindu nationalists seeking to build a temple on the site of a demolished 16th century mosque said Friday they would step up their campaign and reach out to thousands of villages.

Leaders of the World Hindu Council say they will build a temple to Rama, the supreme Hindu god, at the site where Hindu nationalists demolished an ancient Muslim mosque in 1992. The demolition triggered riots across India that killed more than 2,000 people.

The temple campaign was blamed for triggering another round of religious tensions that has left more than 720 people dead over the past three weeks, in the western state of Gujarat.

Many Hindus believe Rama was born at the site - in the northern town of Ayodhya--and that the mosque was built after the desecration of a temple. "The birth place of Lord Rama is not negotiable," the council said in a statement released in Ayodhya, 550 kilometers (345 miles) east of New Delhi. The statement was released after a two-day meeting of council leaders.

The council backed off slightly from its hard-line position this month when it agreed not to insist on the deadline of March 15 for the temple's construction to begin. That would have pitted its members against thousands of police and paramilitary troops guarding the site and Ayodhya city under orders from India's Supreme Court.

Hindu and Muslim groups are locked in a decades-old dispute over possession of the site.

On Friday, council members demanded that the Indian Parliament pass legislation to ensure that the site is given to them. The council said the next phase of the campaign would involve organizing Hindu ceremonies, chanting religious songs and prayers in tens of thousands of villages, and expanding a fire worship ceremony that began in Ayodhya in February to all parts of the country. "The second phase of our movement will be to ensure that we get back the sanctum sanctorum where Lord Rama resides," said Pravin Togadia, the council's general secretary.

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