The landmark ruling paves the way for a Hindu temple to be built on the site in Ayodhya (Picture: EPA) India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the co
India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the country’s most disputed piece of holy land rightfully belongs to Hindus.
In a landmark verdict, five judges paved the way for a temple to be built on the site in Ayodhya, where the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque had stood until it was torn down in 1992.
The dispute over land ownership had been one of India’s most contentious issues, with Hindu nationalists demanding a place of worship there for more than a century.
A separate ‘prominent’ five-acre piece of land will be allocated to the Muslim community for a mosque to be built as part of the ruling.
The ruling, coming six months after he swept to power, was hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made restoring the Ram Temple a key part of his party’s agenda.
The destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu hard-liners in 1992 sparked massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left 2,000 people dead.
Hindu supporters and activists celebrated the ruling on the court lawns, blowing bugles and chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’, or hailing god Ram.
Vishnu Shankar Jain, the lawyer representing the Hindu community, said the years-long journey had been a struggle.
‘It was a huge legal battle and we are happy that we convinced the Supreme Court. It’s a historic moment for Hindus,’ he said.
But Zafaryab Jilani, the attorney acting for the Muslim community’s Babri Action committee, said: ‘We are not satisfied with the verdict and it’s not up our expectation.
‘These five acres of land don’t mean anything to us. We are examining the verdict and whatever legal course is open for us.’
India’s defence minister, Raj Nath Singh, appealed for both sides to ‘accept the court verdict and maintain peace’.
Hindu hard-liners said they wanted to build a new temple to Ram on the site, which they revere as his birthplace.
They added that the mosque was erected after a temple dedicated to the Hindu god was destroyed by Muslim invaders.
The sensitive dispute over whether a temple or mosque should be built on the site has raged for the past 27 years.
Both sides rejected a 2010 ruling dividing the land between both groups and the matter was taken up with the Supreme Court in August.