Ancient Hate Has India on Edge of Chaos

"We don't want to rake up a controversy on all these sites except in Ayodhya, Kashi [Varanasi] and Mathura," says Tiwari. "Ayodhya is unique because it is the birthplace of Lord Ram and we are never going to give up claims to the site. And Mathura is important because it is the birthplace of Lord Krishna [another popular Hindu deity]. India is known as the land of Ram and Krishna, but their birthplaces have been desecrated and we have failed to honor them."

Temples of Power

While historians do not deny that temple desecrations did occur throughout history, Eaton notes that temples, unlike mosques, were embodiments of the legitimacy of a Hindu monarch's regime and were understandable targets for invading armies.

What is less understandable for people like Yusuf Hatim Muchchala, a lawyer from the All India Muslim Personal Board — the organization that legally represents Muslim claims to the site — is why, despite an earlier 1994 ruling by the Supreme Court banning all religious activities near the mosque, history continues to be raked up and stoked.

"In a civilized society, one has to abide by the courts' verdicts," fumes Muchchala.

That's exactly what Topiwala is not sure will happen on Friday. And he is afraid. "There are all sorts of rumors around here," he says. "People are saying there will be a civil war on Friday. My relatives are saying leave this place before March 15, but we can't just leave everyone here. We can only wait and watch."

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