India’s Supreme Court

The Hindus have it. India’s Supreme Court on Saturday ruled in favour of a Hindu group in a long-running legal battle in Ayodhya city, Uttar Pradesh over a centuries-old religious site also claimed by Muslims.

The much awaited ruling by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi now paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple at the site.

The top court also directed that an alternate land parcel be provided to a Muslim group.

The dispute centres around who should control the land upon which lie the ruins of the 16th-century Babri Mosque, destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992.

Hindus believing that the site of the mosque is the birthplace of one of their most revered deities, Lord Ram. Muslims, for their part, insist that they have worshipped at the Babri mosque for centuries until the idol of Ram deity was covertly placed inside the mosque in 1949.

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Under the ruling, the Ayodhya site should be handed over to a government trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, while a separate piece of land in the area would be given over to Muslim groups to build a new mosque.

The decision came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party led the campaign promising to build the temple by demolishing the 16th century structure, appealed to masses to maintain peace and calm saying that the verdict is not anyone’s victory or loss.

“I appeal to the people of the nation to maintain calm and unity. There have been continuous hearings in the case since the past few months which the whole nation watched with curiosity. Showing highest respect to the Judiciary, all sections of the society, cultural organisations have made efforts to maintain peace, amity and positive atmosphere. We have to maintain the same even after the delivery of the verdict”, Modi tweeted on Friday.

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More than 5,000 Indian troops and police were deployed in Ayodhya in the run-up for the Supreme Court ruling, with hundreds of people reportedly detained on Friday amid fears of violence.