A holy site that provoked riots across India in the past should be divided between the Hindu and Moslem communities, a court ruled yesterday.
The Moslem community immediately said it would appeal the ruling to the country’s Supreme Court.
Moslems revere the compound in Ayodhya as the site of the now-demolished 16th- century Babri Mosque, while Hindus say it is the birthplace of the god Rama.
Allahabad High Court ruled the site should be split, with the Moslems getting a third and two Hindu groups splitting the remainder.
The Hindus will keep the area where a small shrine to Rama has been erected.
Hindu lawyers also said they would appeal, and immediate reaction to the ruling was muted and seemed unlikely to provoke violence, as the government had feared.
Hindus went to give thanks at temples in Ayodhya, where all was peaceful.
“It is very clear the case will go to the Supreme Court. It is not our final victory,” said Nitya Gopal Das, president of a Hindu trust.
“We hope all problems regarding matters with Hindus and Moslems can be settled in this amicable way,” said Haji Arfat, a leader of the Hindu fundamentalist Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
The verdict was seen as an opportunity for reconciliation in India, which many say has moved on from the past with a younger generation more interested in their education and mobile phones than communal divisions.
Ayodhya provoked the sectarian violence that has challenged India’s ethos as a multicultural democracy.
Some 2,000 people died in 1992 when Hindu hard-liners razed the Babri Mosque.
Hindus want to build an enormous temple to Rama, while the Moslems want to rebuild the mosque.
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