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RELIGIOUS Hindus and nationalists celebrated in the streets of the Indian city of Ayodhya over the weekend after the Supreme Court ruled that a temple to the god Rama could be built on disputed ground.
The ruling is a major boost for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, forming one of three signature demands of his Hindu chauvinist BJP party. It has also promised the revocation of Article 370 of the constitution on protecting Kashmiris’ rights to their land — which his government has already forced through — and the imposition of a uniform civil code that would “iron out” regional divergences based on India’s diverse religious and ethnic make-up in favour of the Hindu majority.
The planned temple in Uttar Pradesh is controversial as it will stand on the site of the Babri Masjid mosque, which was razed to the ground by a mob organised by the BJP and the Hindu militant VHP organisation in 1992. The outrage sparked sectarian violence across India in which thousands of people, mostly Muslims, were killed. The mosque, which had stood since 1528, was allegedly built on the site of a previous temple to Rama, though this has never been proved. Hindus say the site is Rama’s birthplace.
The court agreed to offer five acres of land to the local Muslim community for a mosque to be built as “restitution for the unlawful destruction of the [Babri Masjid] mosque.”
Despite agreeing that the mosque’s destruction had been illegal, the court declined to take any punitive action against those involved, who include senior BJP members.
Zafaryab Jilani of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf board, a Muslim party to the dispute, said: “We are not satisfied with the verdict. These five acres of land don’t mean anything to us.”
Vishnu Shankar Jain, one of the lawyers for the Hindu petitioners, said the ruling was “a historic moment for Hindus.”
And Mr Modi welcomed it and called on “all citizens to come together to build a new India.”
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said there were “questionable” elements to the ruling, especially the refusal to consider punitive action against those who razed the mosque. It called for calm and for all sides to refrain from “provocative actions” that might ignite violence.
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