DELHI: India’s security forces are on high alert as the Supreme Court announces its verdict in a decades-old land title dispute between Muslims and Hindus over plans to build a Hindu temple on a site where Hindu hard-liners demolished a 16th-century mosque in 1992, sparking deadly religious riots.
In a unanimous decision, Shia petition has been dismissed, reported The Hindu.
The bench ordered that a temple will be constructed on the disputed land, said The Hindu, ordering the government to formulate a scheme within three months under the Ayodhya Act 1993. Muslims will be awarded five acre of alternative land in a suitable, prominent place, said the court, noting that the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992 was a violation of law. The land will be acquired by the government, said Scroll.in.
Till the Trust is formed, the ownership of the site will rest with the Centre.
“There is adequate material in the ASI report to conclude the following: Babri Masjid not constructed on vacant land. There was a structure underlying the disputed structure. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure,” said Supreme Court, according to Scroll.in.
“But the ASI report does not say if the structure was demolished for the mosque. It has left unanswered this critical point: whether the temple was demolished for the mosque.”
“This court must accept faith and accept the belief of worshippers,” India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s was quoted as saying. “Court should preserve balance.”
“The mosque was not abandoned by the Muslims.”
Whichever way it goes, the court decision is likely to have a significant impact on fraught relations between India’s Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14% of its 1.3 billion people.
The destruction of the mosque in 1992 sparked massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left 2,000 people dead.
Hindu hard-liners say they want to build a new temple to Hindu god 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 the two communities represented by Hindu Maha Sabha, the Sunni Waqf Board, and the Nirmohi Akhara.
The five judges started daily proceedings in August after mediation failed to find a compromise.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a series of tweets appealed for peace ahead of the verdict. He had earlier cautioned his council of ministers from making unnecessary statements on the issue that could stoke public sentiments.
Appeals for peace have also come from Hindu and Muslim organisations and various political leaders. India’s Home Ministry has asked all states to be on alert.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meanwhile, objected to the timing of the verdict, given the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor today.