Indian Supreme Court: the sacred site of Ayodhya belongs to Hindus. Social peace at risk

The sentence puts an end to a centuries-old dispute.  For the Hindus, it is the birthplace of the god Ram;  the Muslims, that of a historic mosque.  Premier Modi: "Neither victory nor defeat".  But Hindus rejoice, and Muslims promise legal action.  For experts, it will test peace in the country.


New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Definitivey closing a debate that has lasted for years, this morning the Indian Supreme Court awarded the Hindu community ownership of the religious site of Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh. 

The place was also disputed by the Muslims, to whom the judges assigned another piece of land to build a mosque.  While the Hindus exulted singing "Jai Sri Ram" (ode to the god Ram), Muslims expressed deep dissatisfaction.  The lawyer of the faithful of Islam, Zafaryab Jilani, promises: "We are examining the verdict and whatever legal course is open for us.”

The ruling is a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made his strong point in Ayodhya.  However this morning, perhaps to avoid negative reactions, he wrote on his Twitter profile that the sentence "is neither a victory nor a defeat for anyone".  Then he added: "May peace and harmony prevail!"

The court's verdict, composed of five judges, was unanimous.  The sentence had been anticipated in these days, coming any "moment" before the retirement of President Ranjan Gogoi, who concludes his mandate on November 17th.  Fearing violence among members of religious communities, in recent days the Delhi government has sent an additional contingent of 4 thousand soldiers to the area.  Furthermore, the schools are closed in the Indian state, and some restrictions are in force in the capital and other cities of Rajasthan and Maharasthra.

According to experts, the sentence of the supreme judicial body risks dropping India into new sectarian violence, such as those arising from the incident that ignited the dispute.  According to the Hindu tradition, Ayodhya is the birthplace of Rama, incarnation of the god Vishnu.  Here in 1528 the Babri Masjid (mosque of Babri) was built.  In later centuries the Hindus tried to bring it down, claiming that the mosque had been erected on the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple.

Summoned to Ayodhya for a ceremony, on December 6, 1992 militants of the Hindu nationalist family of the Sangh Parivar attacked the mosque, tearing down the three domes in less than three hours.  All under the watch of the police, deployed in force together with a paramilitary contingent.  During the night a small Hindu temple was built on the ruins of the mosque.  The assault resulted in violent clashes across the country between Hindus and Muslims, which led to the death of at least 2 thousand people.

In 2010 the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed area was divided into three parts between Hindus and Muslims (two and one respectively).  Nationalists challenged that verdict by bringing the issue before the Supreme Court.  In today's ruling, the judges also stated that the destruction of the Babri mosque was "against the rule of law", effectively confirming the responsibilities of senior officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party government who took part in the demolition.

Analysts, including Akhil Bery of the Eurasia Group, believe the decision "will test India's ability to quell violence and not let anyone lead to an out-of-control spiral".  According to Ashok Swain, a professor at the Department of Research on Peace and Conflict at Uppsala University in Sweden, the verdict, "rather than being founded on facts, reasons and adherence to the secular values ​​of the Constitution, is the affirmation of majority sentiments.  It will push the 200 million Indian Muslims even more to the margins ".

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