India’s Supreme Court on Saturday ruled in favor of a Hindu group in a long-running legal battle over a centuries-old religious site Babri mosque in Ayodhya, also claimed by Muslims, a ruling that may stir tensions between the two communities.
The ruling paves the way for the establishment of a Hindu temple at the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by the ruling Hindu party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi appealed to citizens to maintain peace, saying the court’s decision should not be seen as a victory or defeat for anyone.
The five-judge panel headed by Ranjan Gogoi unanimously handed over the 2.77-acre plot of Babri mosque to one of the Hindu groups it was claiming.
The judge said a temple should be built on the disputed land by establishing a fund at the disposal of the central government.
For more than seven decades, right-wing Hindus have sought to build a temple on the site, which they believe is the cradle of Lord Ram, the incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. They say the site has been sacred to Hindus for far longer than the Babri Mosque, built by the Mughal Muslims there in 1528.
A Hindu crowd demolished the mosque in 1992, sparking riots in which about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and a series of legal battles between several groups claiming its right to the site of Babri mosque. The place has since been heavily guarded.
Prior to the verdict, security was tightened in Ayodhya and across India, particularly in cities that have seen sectarian violence before, gatherings were restricted in some areas and police monitored social media to prevent any rumors that could fuel tensions between the two communities. Cities to prevent the spread of rumors.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, from which the Modi Party emerged, decided to ban any ceremonial measures if the ruling came in favor of the Hindus, to avoid provoking any sectarian violence, while Islamic organizations called for calm to prevent any sectarian violence.