India's top court orders mediation in Hindu temple dispute

NEW DELHI — India's top court set up a mediation team Friday to try to settle a land dispute between Muslims and Hindus over plans to build a Hindu temple on a site where hard-liners demolished a 16th century mosque.

Attorney Vishnu Jain said the court gave the three-member team four weeks to submit its report. A retired Supreme Court judge will head the panel.

If the mediation bid fails, the Supreme Court will settle the dispute.

The court is hearing petitions challenging a 2010 lower court ruling that 1.12 hectares (2.77 acres) of disputed land be partitioned among the Hindus and the Muslims.

The destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 sparked massive Hindu-Muslim violence in the country, leaving 2,000 people dead.

Hindu hard-liners say they want to build a new temple to Hindu god Ram on the site, which they revere as his birthplace. They say the 16th century Babri Mosque was built after a temple dedicated to the Hindu god was destroyed by Muslim invaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to build the temple in 2014 elections that brought him to power. The next national elections are due before May.

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