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Hindus say the site was holy for them long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri Mosque there in 1528.
Hindu protesters demolished the mosque in 1992, triggering riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed.
Many Muslims in Ayodhya have welcomed construction of the temple in the hope that it would end years of acrimony with Hindus and help bring economic growth but an influential Muslim group spoke out against it.
“Usurpation of the land by an unjust, oppressive, shameful and majority-appeasing judgment can’t change its status,” the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board said on Twitter.
“No need to be heartbroken. Situations don’t last forever.”
Bricks of gold and silver
Many members of India’s Muslim minority saw last year’s court ruling awarding the site to Hindus as part of a pattern by the Hindu-nationalist government aimed at sidelining Muslims.
The government denies that.
Wednesday’s launch of construction came on the first anniversary of the scrapping by Modi’s government of special privileges for India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, another highly contentious issue for Muslims.
The BJP had long called for disputed Kashmir’s special autonomy to be revoked. The government said the change was necessary to develop the strife-torn region and integrate it with the rest of India.
Before the launch of construction of the temple, Modi took part in Hindu rituals that included the chanting of Vedic mantras by saffron-clad priests to bless the site.