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Allahabad High Court issues Ayodhya verdict, dividing religious site

The Allahabad High Court in India today announced the Ayodhya verdict, dividing a religious site disputed between Muslims and Hindus.

By Mian RidgeCorrespondent / September 30, 2010

Hindu priests celebrate after hearing the first reports on the court verdict in Ayodhya, India, Sept. 30. An Indian court ruled Thursday that a disputed holy site that has sparked bloody communal riots across the country in the past should be divided between the Hindu and Muslim communities. However, the court gave the Hindu community control over the section where the now demolished Babri Mosque stood.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP Photo

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New Delhi, India

An Indian court ordered the division of a patch of land in Ayodhya at the center of an ugly dispute between Muslims and Hindus, with a majority share going to Hindus.

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Indians were glued to their televisions Thursday afternoon as a team of three judges at the Allahabad High Court ruled that one-third of the site would be held by a Muslim organization, with the remainder divided between two Hindu groups.

For more than a century members of the two faiths have fought over the site in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. In 1992 a Hindu mob tore down the 16th century Babri Mosque there with pickaxes and their bare hands. Ensuing riots killed more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslim.

Despite fears that a verdict – of any kind – would unleash fresh communal violence, the region was calm in its aftermath.

“With the site being divided I don’t think there will be any big trouble in Uttar Pradesh,” says Sharat Prathan, a journalist in the state capital, Lucknow. “Indian people are so secular I don’t think they will mind if there is a mosque and a temple near to each other.”

The case has been something of a test of modern India's ability to ease sectarian tensions in a country that has experienced stunning economic growth since 1992. An improving economic environment has corresponded with a decline in the political fortunes of the chauvinistic Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A government inquiry last November determined that senior BJP members were complicit in the 1992 attack.

Hindutva fades

The party rose to prominence on the back of its antipathy for the mosque at Ayodyha and its promotion of Hindutva (literally “Hinduness”) increasing its number of seats from two in 1884 to 120 in 1991. In 1998 it came to power for the first time as head of a coalition government.

But in recent years, the notion of Hindutva has faded. In a general election last spring, the BJP took a drubbing. Political analysts say the Congress party did well in part because it took votes from Indians traditionally drawn to political Hinduism.

“India has moved on and the mood has changed, mostly because the political situation is so different,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst at Delhi University. “I think the media has hyped up fears about a violent reaction."

The reaction from some Muslim Indians was a sign of the improved atmosphere in the intervening years.

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