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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.

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"The suit of Muslims was liable to be dismissed,” a lawyer for the Babri Masjid Action Committee, a Muslim group, told reporters. “But they are still entitled to one-third of the site. We can say we are partly disappointed, not fully because some of the stand of the Muslims has been vindicated." "Masjid" is a local word for "mosque."

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Precautions taken

The government prepared for the worst. Some 200,000 security forces were deployed in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. The ability to send a single text message to large groups of people was blocked in order to slow the spread of rumors. Liquor shops and many schools were closed for the day. An appeal for calm, signed by Prime Minister Singh, appeared in several Indian newspapers.

On Thursday a curfew was imposed in the Indian-occupied, Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which has seen surging violence in recent months.

The Babri Mosque was commissioned by Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire, in 1528. For more than a century, a group of Hindus have claimed that Babur built over a Hindu temple. There is no archaeological evidence to support either belief, though the site has long been venerated by Hindus as well as Muslims. Some Hindus also believe that the site is the birthplace of their god Ram.

In 1949, Hindus reportedly placed statues of their own gods inside the mosque, claiming their presence was miraculous. When Muslims protested, authorities ruled the mosque a disputed site, and closed it down.

Ten years after the riots sparked by the mosque demolition in 1992, the dispute claimed fresh victims when Muslims attacked and killed 58 Hindu passengers on a train rumored to be returning from Ayodhya. The massacre sparked riots throughout Gujarat killing an estimated 2,000 mostly Muslims.

Headaches amid Commonwealth Games

Revisiting the issue has been a headache for India’s government at a time when the country is preparing for the Commonwealth Games, held in Delhi from Oct. 4 to 14.

The city’s disastrous preparations for the games have embarrassed the government and security is a particular concern after two foreign tourists were shot and wounded by suspected terrorists in the capital on Sept. 19. On Sept. 28, India’s supreme court heard a petition asking for the Ayodhya verdict to be delayed until the games were over. The court refused.

The court in Allahabad also ruled Thursday that the current status of the site should be maintained for the next three months to allow for the land to be peacefully divided.

Irfan Muhammed, a Muslim taxi driver in Delhi, said he did not believe there would be a Muslim backlash against the verdict, even though his community had lost the site on which the mosque was built.

“All over India there are temples and mosques close together," he says. “All most people want is peace.”