It’s the afternoon call to prayer at the Gyanvapi mosque in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The handful of men there, kneeling, are dwarfed by the massive 17th-century structure, their soft words nearly drowned out by the steady hum of the low ceiling fans. It’s a moment of peace and reflection, before the men step back out into an ocean of chaos. They are, after all, in the heavily guarded heart of the temple town of Varanasi, and the heart of a religious dispute that has been brewing for decades. The existence of Gyanvapi mosque has been challenged in court, over allegations that it was built after tearing down an iconic Hindu temple. The petitioner wants the land to be restored to the Hindus, so a temple can be built in the place of the mosque. It is a familiar dispute for many Indians — a similarly controversial mosque once existed just 200 kilometers (125 miles) from this one and became the epicenter of a decadeslong standoff between Hindus and Muslims in the country . The Babri mosque in the city of Ayodhya was torn down by Hindu mobs in December 1991, catapulting the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata… Read full this story
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