India sent hundreds of thousands of troops into the streets Thursday as it braced for a potential eruption of violence ahead of a court decision on whether Hindus or Muslims should control a disputed holy site.
The conflict over the compound in the town of Ayodhya, 550 kilometres east of New Delhi, has sparked communal riots that killed thousands of people and challenged India's ethos as a secular, multicultural
Hoping to prevent a new round of violence when the court issues its verdict Thursday afternoon in the 60-year-old case over who rightfully controls the site, the government flooded the streets with troops.
Police arrested more than 10,000 people to prevent them from inciting violence, while another 100,000 had to sign affidavits saying they would not cause trouble after the verdict, a top official said.
Helicopters hovered over holy sites in the state as people entering temples were checked with metal detectors, police said.
"We have deployed around 200,000 security personnel at sensitive places to prevent any violence post the Ayodhya verdict," top state official Shashank Shekhar Singh said.
The 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was razed by Hindu hardliners in 1992, setting off nationwide riots that killed 2,000 people. Hindus say the mosque, built in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, was erected at the birthplace of their god, Rama.
Hindus want to build a temple to Rama there, while Muslims want to rebuild the mosque.
The verdict in the explosive case comes as thousands of foreign athletes poured into New Delhi ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which start Sunday, and Indian officials have appealed for calm.
"There should be no attempt whatsoever made by any section of the people to provoke any other section or to indulge in any expression of emotion that would hurt the feelings of other people," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in an ad published in Indian newspapers Wednesday.
An umbrella group of broadcasters has asked TV stations not to inflame emotions by showing images of the destruction of the mosque.
The government extended its ban on bulk texting to stop people from sending mass messages that could incite violenc
The High Court in the state of Uttar Pradesh was locked down ahead of the verdict and only those directly involved in the case will be allowed inside. Personal security for the three judges who will decide the case was beefed up in advance of the ruling.
© The Canadian Press, 2010