Muslim group involved in the case calls verdict 'unfair', says it was likely to seek a review of the decision that gave Hindus control of 16th-century mosque that was demolished in 1992 by Hindu hardliners in northern Ayodhya city.

Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya some 7,000 years ago but that a mosque was constructed on top of his birthplace in the 16th century.
Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya some 7,000 years ago but that a mosque was constructed on top of his birthplace in the 16th century. (AP)

India's top court handed a huge victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu right-wing party on Saturday, awarding Hindus control of a bitterly disputed holy site that has sparked some of the country's worst sectarian bloodshed.

The Supreme Court ruled that the site in Ayodhya in northern India, where Hindu mobs destroyed a 460-year-old mosque in 1992, must be managed by a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple.

A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to a Muslim group to build a "prominent" new mosque, the court ruled in its hotly awaited 1,045-page verdict.

As delighted Hindu activists chanted outside the Delhi court, Ayodhya itself was barricaded with thousands of extra security personnel including riot police deployed and all gatherings banned.

Authorities stepped up security nationwide ahead of the decision and Modi called for calm, fearing the final ruling on an issue that has been a focal point of Hindu-Muslim tensions for decades could again trigger unrest.

Police were on alert across India while officials and volunteers scoured social media for inflammatory posts. Internet access was suspended in the city of Aligarh, home to a large Muslim minority.

TRT World spoke with journalist Ishan Russell and Milli Gazette Editor Zafarul Islam Khan for more.

Demolition of mosque

Devout Hindus believe that Lord Ram, the warrior god, was born in Ayodhya some 7,000 years ago but a mosque was constructed on top of his birthplace in the 16th century.

In the 1980s, as Hindu nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began to strengthen, pressure grew for the mosque to be replaced by a new Hindu temple at the 2.8-acre site.

In 1992, a Hindu mob estimated to number 200,000 reduced the mosque to rubble, unleashing some of the worst religious riots since independence, killing some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.

In 2002, after 59 Hindu activists died in a blaze on a train from Ayodhya, riots in Gujarat state – when Modi was its chief minister

– saw upwards of 1,000 people perish, again largely Muslims.

The verdict, it is hoped, will put an end to an angry and at times arcane legal wrangle that British colonial rulers and even the Dalai Lama tried to mediate.

'Unjust' verdict

Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer representing one of the Muslim litigants, said however that it was "unjust" and that he was considering filing a review petition.

Varun Kumar Sinha, a lawyer representing one of the Hindu groups, called it a "historic judgement".

"Now, finally, the talk around it and even the politics around it will stop," said Shubham Maheshwar, 25, a resident of Ayodhya whose family lives 400 metres (yards) from the site.

The Wire commenting on the verdict, which it said came with "glaring contradictions," said, "the bench ruled that Muslims failed to show they offered namaz and were in "exclusive possession" of the mosque from 1528 to 1857. Yet the Hindu plaintiffs, who also failed to show this, get the land on "balance of probabilities."

Modi's BJP has campaigned for years for a temple at Ayodhya, and the verdict will delight the prime minister's supporters just months into his second term.

But it will also send shudders through some in the 200-million-strong Muslim minority.

The BJP owes its origins to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militaristic group that has long espoused "Hindutva", or Hindu hegemony in officially secular India.

Under Modi, a former RSS cadre, Islamic-sounding names of several cities have been changed, while some school textbooks have been altered to downplay Muslims' contributions to India.

There has been a string of lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over cows, sacred for many Hindus, and other hate crimes including Muslims forced to perform Hindu chants.

Pakistan says 'uncertainty' for Indian Muslims

New Delhi also stripped India-administered Kashmir of its limited autonomy in August, something Modi insisted was to foster development and end decades of violence. Kashmiris say BJP's sole motive is to change the demographics of the Muslim-majority region by settling Hindu outsiders. 

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the verdict has "plunged the Muslims of India into uncertainty and exposed them to a lack of security and protection".

"The halls of justice have amicably concluded a matter going on for decades," Modi tweeted. "This verdict shouldn't be seen as a win or loss for anybody."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies