India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the disputed holy site of Ayodhya should be given to Hindus who want a temple built there.
The case, bitterly contested by Hindus and Muslims for decades, centred on the ownership of the land.
Muslims will get another plot of land to construct a mosque, the court said.
The five-judge bench, in a unanimous decision over the Babri Mosque site, asked the government to set up of a trust that will construct a temple for Hindu deity Ram.
Hardliners among India’s majority Hindus, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), believe that Lord Ram, the warrior god, was born at the site where the Babri mosque existed. They say that the first Mughal emperor Babur built a mosque on top of a temple at the site.
Muslims said they prayed at the mosque for generations until 1949, when Hindu activists placed idols of Ram.
The top court said a structure existed under the Babri Mosque, which was not built on vacant land.
The Indian Supreme Court also said that a “suitable plot” of land measuring 5 acres would be allotted to Muslims, either by central or provincial government, to construct a mosque.
In the judgement, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the Indian government to formulate a scheme envisaging setting up of trust within three months to build the temple.
“Possession of inner and outer courtyards [of Babri Mosque] be handed over to the trust,” Gogoi said.
Babri Mosque was demolished in 1992 by a Hindu mob, who claimed that the site was birthplace of Hindu god Lord Rama.
Sunni Waqf Board Lawyer Zafaryab Jilani says he is not satisfied with the judgment. “We are not satisfied with the verdict. But will respect the order. We will seek a review of the verdict, 5-acre land has no value for us. We are appealing for calm and quiet.”