Hindus hail Indian temple ruling

Hindus hail Indian temple ruling

Supreme Court says Hindu temple can be built in Ayodyha, but Muslims must be given new land for mosque

People wave a flag that reads “Glory to Lord Ram” as they celebrate the Ayodhya ruling outride the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Saturday. (AP Photo)
People wave a flag that reads “Glory to Lord Ram” as they celebrate the Ayodhya ruling outride the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Saturday. (AP Photo)

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Saturday ruled in favour of a Hindu temple on a disputed religious site in Ayodhya and ordered that an alternative site be given to Muslims to build a mosque — a ruling deplored by an attorney representing the Muslim community.

The dispute over land ownership has been one of the country’s most contentious issues, with Hindu nationalists demanding a temple for more than a century.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the court ruling and said it had settled a long-standing matter. “Every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view. This ruling will further increase people’s faith in judicial processes,” he said on Twitter.

The 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was destroyed by Hindu hardliners in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left 2,000 people dead.

The ruling paves the way for building the temple in place of the demolished mosque.

Five Supreme Court justices said in a unanimous judgment that five acres of land will be allotted to the Muslim community at a prominent place for building a mosque. The disputed land will be given to a board of trustees for the construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram.

The court observed that the demolition of the mosque in 1992 was “in violation of the status quo orders of this court”. But the justices left it at that and didn’t order any punitive action against those who demolished the mosque — in the presence of several top leaders of Modi’s party.

Hindu supporters and activists celebrated the ruling on the court lawns, blowing bugles and chanting “Jai Shree Ram” or “Hail Lord Ram”.

Zafaryab Jilani, the attorney representing the Muslims, opposed the ruling.

“We are not satisfied with the ruling and it’s not up our expectation,” said Jilani, who is representing the Muslim community’s Babri Action committee.

“These five acres of land don’t mean anything to us,” he said. “We are examining the ruling and whatever legal course is open for us.”

He hinted at filing a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging Saturday’s ruling. At the same time, he appealed to members of all communities to maintain peace.

Vishnu Shankar Jain, an attorney who represented the Hindu community, said the journey over several years had been a struggle.

“It was a huge legal battle and we are happy that we convinced the Supreme Court. It’s a historic moment for Hindus,” he said.

Raj Nath Singh, India’s defence minister, appealed to all to “accept the court ruling and maintain peace”.

In Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi criticised the ruling, saying it was indicative of the “hate-based mindset” of the Modi government.

“This is nothing but the Modi government’s continued policies of cultivating seeds of hatred and promoting differences between the communities and religious segments of the population to achieve its designs,” he said.

Hindu hardliners say they want to build a new temple to Lord Ram on the site, which they revere as his birthplace. They say the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to the Hindu god was destroyed by Muslim invaders.

After the demolition of the mosque, Hindus and Muslims took the issue to a lower court, which in 2010 ruled that the disputed land should be divided into three parts — two for Hindus and one for Muslims.

That was challenged in the Supreme Court by both communities.

The five judges started daily proceedings in August after mediation failed to find a compromise.

Modi had promised to build the temple in 2014 elections that brought him to power. But he later decided to wait for the court ruling despite pressure from millions of Hindu hardliners who asked his government to bring legislation to build the temple

Authorities increased security in Ayodhya, 550 kilometres east of New Delhi, and deployed more than 5,000 paramilitary forces to prevent any attacks by Hindu activists on Muslims, who comprise 6% of the town’s 55,500 people.

Overall, Hindus comprise more than 80% and Muslims nearly 14% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

The strict measures included a ban on the assembly of more than four people at one place.

The town looked deserted with authorities turning back thousands of Hindu pilgrims who were congregating for a religious event on Tuesday. Security forces also established a strong presence around the religious site and were not allowing anyone to visit.

People travelling in cars and buses to Ayodhya were being thoroughly checked at security barriers as commandos took up positions in bunkers across the town.

Police have arrested nearly 500 people for posting provocative messages on social media in the state. Police also have detained 5,000 people with criminal backgrounds across the state to prevent them from creating trouble after the court ruling, according to Uttar Pradesh state government spokesman Awanish Awasthi.

Authorities also stopped the entry of people into the state through land border from Nepal, and ordered all state schools and colleges to remain closed until Monday.

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