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Indian Government Report Cites Evidence of Medieval Hindu Temple at Disputed Religious Site

In India, a report by government archeologists says there is evidence of a medieval Hindu temple at a disputed religious site in northern India claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. Muslim groups are likely to contest the findings.

The report by government archeologists was submitted to a court in Lucknow city after a four-month dig at the site where a 16th century mosque once stood in Ayodhya town.

Eleven-years ago, a Hindu mob tore down the mosque, claiming it stood the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of Hindu god Rama.

The excavation was ordered in a bid to settle an explosive dispute between Hindu hardliners who want to build a temple at the site, and Muslim groups who want the mosque rebuilt.

The voluminous 574-page report was given to lawyers representing Hindu and Muslim groups, but not to the public.

The report says there is archeological evidence of a "massive structure," and of building work dating back to the 10th century under the disputed site. It says archeologists found lotus motifs, circular shrines and pillar bases. These are distinctive features associated with Hindu temples of Northern India.

Muslim lawyers were quick to downplay the findings, saying the report is not categorical in stating that a temple existed at the site, but simply speaks of "some structure which maybe a temple."

Political analysts say the report is not likely to help settle the conflicting claims of Hindu and Muslim groups to the site.

The dispute has dragged on in the courts for decades.

Hindu hardline groups say building the temple is a matter of faith, and can not be decided by courts. But they have welcomed the report of the archeologists, and feel it will strengthen their case to have a Hindu temple built at the site.

The demolition of the mosque in 1992 triggered nationwide riots in which more than 2,000 people were killed. The dispute remains one of India's most explosive religious issues between the majority Hindu community and Muslims, who make up 12 percent of the population.