India

Ayodhya holy site to be divided, Indian court rules

Reuters

The much-awaited verdict on the Ayodhya holy site dispute in India is out. The contested land is to be split between Hindus and Muslims.

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The case relates to the site of a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya in the north of the country which is claimed by both religions.

The Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed land is to be divided into three parts, with two-thirds given to two Hindu groups and a third to Muslims, making the site the joint property of Hindu groups Mahasabha and Nirmohi Akhara and the Muslim group Sunni Central Waqf Board.

A Hindu group campaigning to build a temple on the site said the court verdict dividing the plot was a "matter of great happiness".

Hindu lawyers said the court's verdict, which has not been fully released, backed Hindu beliefs that the site was the birthplace of the deity Lord Ram.

The main Muslim group contesting the site in northern India said it was "partly disappointed" by the verdict to divide the location.

The court ruled that the division will not take place for another three months, with status quo lasting until then.

"This has absolutely come as a surprise to everybody because the three-judge bench was expected to give a verdict either this way or that way," reports correspondent Vickram Roy

"Muslims have taken this quite lightly and they are perhaps as happy or as unhappy as the Hindus."

High-profile Hindu-nationalist Narendra Modi, who is Chief Minister of Gujarat state has called on the verdict to be "accepted and welcomed by all".

"After the shambles that we saw with the Commonwealth Games people were losing a bit of faith in the governance of the country, and this is seen as a progressive move and a step forward," says Roy.

In 1992 the demolition of the mosque by Hindu activists sparked riots that killed more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Ahead of the verdict, India was on high alert with thousands of tear gas and rubber bullet equipped police patrolling the streets.
 

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