Indian court grants Hindus holy site; Muslims to get alternative plot

Narendra Modi, Indian PM

An Indian court ruled that a disputed piece of land in Northern India that has been a flash point of tension between Hindus and Muslims for years will be given to Hindus to build a temple.

The country’s Supreme Court ruled on Saturday.

The five judge constitution bench said that an alternate piece of land is to be given to Muslims by the government in the town of Ayodhya to construct a Mosque.

The razing of the 16th-century Babri mosque by Hindu mobs in 1992 led to deadly riots in which more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

Hindus claimed a temple to their god Ram predated the mosque and wanted to build a new one at the site, while Muslims wanted a new mosque.

The Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, ruled that the 2.77 acres (1.12 hectares) of land will be given to a government-run trust, to be set up in three months, for the construction of a temple for Ram.

“It is thus concluded on the conclusion that faith and belief of Hindus since prior to construction of mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that Janmaasthan (birthplace) of Lord Ram is the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed which faith and belief is proved by documentary and oral evidence discussed above.’’

The bench said in a 1,045-page order.

A five-acre (2.02-hectare) plot of land at a prominent site should be handed over to the Sunni Waqf Board, which is the Muslim plaintiff in the title suits. The body would be free to build a mosque on this land, the judges said.

In their unanimous verdict, the five judges referred to a report by the Archaeological Survey of India which they said confirmed that a structure existed underneath the mosque but it was not clear what it was.

“We respect the verdict, but we are not satisfied ,we will go through the judgment carefully,’’ Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer for the Sunni Waqf Board, one of the petitioners, said in an initial reaction.

Jilani said they found contradictions in the judgement and that they would meet soon to decide whether they would file a review of the judgement in court.

There were appeals for peace and heightened security was put in place across India ahead of the verdict.

Prior to the judgement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Ayodhya verdict will not be anybody’s victory’s or loss,’’adding that it was the priority of the country’s citizens to maintain harmony.

Several thousand troops have been deployed in and around Ayodhya, along with local police trained to contain riots and bomb disposal squads, according to news reports.

Security was tightened and schools and colleges were closed in several states, including Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is situated.

The government has also increased the security provided to the five judges.

The dispute is among the most divisive issues in India in decades between majority Hindus and Muslims, who account for 14 per cent of India’s population of 1.3 billion.

After lower courts heard the case for several years, the Supreme Court took up the matter in 2011 when it suspended a high court ruling that the disputed site be split into three parts, with one portion going to Muslims and the other two to Hindus.

Building the Ram temple in Ayodhya has long been an election promise of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which made its first major electoral gains in the 1990s riding on the demand for the Ram temple.(dpa/NAN)