"It Is The Wish Of Lord Ram": Mohammed Sharif, Ayodhya Ceremony Invitee

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party has been leading the demand for a temple there dedicated to Lord Ram, is expected to be the chief guest at the event in Ayodhya town.

Devotees leave after praying on the banks of Sarayu river after Supreme Court's verdict. (Reuters)

Lucknow:

In a gesture of reconciliation, two prominent Muslims who lived through deadly riots following the razing of Babri mosque in 1992 plan to attend the foundation-laying ceremony for the Ram temple on Wednesday on the same site, they said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party has been leading the demand for a temple there dedicated to Lord Ram, is expected to be the chief guest at the event in Ayodhya town.

Construction was made possible by a verdict late last year from the Supreme Court of India awarding the disputed site to the Hindus.

"Whatever happened are things of the past," said Iqbal Ansari, one of the Muslim litigants

"I've been invited and I think it's the wish of Lord Ram and I am going to attend it."

Mohammad Sharif, another Muslim honoured with one of India's highest civilian awards for doing the last rites of unclaimed bodies since the riots, told Reuters he too had got an invitation and was keen to be there.

In 1992, right-wing volunteers destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering clashes in which about 2,000 people were killed across the country.

Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

The area, situated about 427 miles southeast of New Delhi, was filled with the sounds of vedic hymns ahead of the ground-breaking ceremony.

Barricades have been put up across the town with heavy police presence, as authorities try to limit the number of visitors to maintain social distancing.

At least two priests in the area and four policemen have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, nearly 200 people are likely to be there at the event, including 135 saints and priests from Nepal.