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Indian Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Hindu Temple on Disputed Land in Ayodhya

(NEW DELHI) — India’s Supreme Court on Saturday ruled in favor of a Hindu temple on a disputed religious ground in the country’s north and ordered that alternative land be given to Muslims to build a mosque – a verdict in a highly contentious case that was immediately deplored by a key Muslim body.

The dispute over land ownership has been one of India’s most heated issues, with Hindu nationalists demanding a temple on the site in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state for more than a century. The 16th century Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by Hindu hard-liners in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left some 2,000 people dead.

Saturday’s verdict paves the way for building the temple in place of the demolished mosque. It is expected to give a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party which has been promising the majority Hindus a temple of their most revered god Ram in Ayodhya town as part of its election strategy for decades. The minority Muslims fear that the court verdict will embolden Hindu hardliners in the country.

Modi hailed the decision and said it had settled a long-standing matter.

“Every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view. This verdict will further increase people’s faith in judicial processes,” Modi tweeted.

He also in a broadcast over television channels and radio urged “all citizens to come together to build a new India and work for everyone’s development.” Hindu supporters and activists celebrated the ruling on the court lawns, blowing bugles and chanting “Jai shree Ram,” or “Hail god Ram.” The five judges said Hindus’ belief that Ram was born at the site “is undisputed,” and that Muslims have not provided evidence that they were in exclusive possession of the disputed site.

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