The court said the site would be split between two Hindu groups and one Muslim group. There are moves for reconciliation while some plan to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.
Mahant Dharam Das from the Hindu Mahasabha shows a copy of the Ayodhya verdict to reporters
After a bench of judges ruled on September 30 that India’s disputed religious site in Ayodhya, claimed by both Muslims and Hindus, should be shared by both communities, there is still no clarity on how one of the country’s longest litigation battles will play out.
With the historic verdict delivered, apprehensions remain as to whether it will put the lid on the four centuries old dispute between the followers of the two largest religions in India and pave the way for the construction of a Ram temple as also a mosque somewhere near it.
Sunni Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani at a press conference after the verdict
The Muslim community represented by the Sunni Waqf Board as well as the Hindu Mahasabha, both petitioners in the case, have already indicated that they might move the Supreme Court. They are partly disappointed by the High Court verdict, although they admit it is a step forward.
Digvijay Singh, Secretary General of the ruling Congress party, said it was the best possible judgment. "The people of this country will accept it by and large and there won’t be many contentious issues arising. There are no winners and there are no losers. There has to be some kind of a judgment where there is a win-win situation for all. I would say it doesn’t tilt either to the Muslims or to the Hindus."
The High Court ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya, where a makeshift temple was built after demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992, was Ram's birthplace. However, it ruled that the land be split among three contesting parties.
Faith or facts?
The court took into consideration a report by the Archaeological Survey of India that there was a huge temple structure below the mosque, validating an old argument by Hindus that there had been a temple of the god Ram before the 14th century mosque was erected on the site.
Some leaders of the Muslim community are cynical about the verdict. They say the court has put faith and belief above the evidence and facts. But Digvijay Singh said there is no reason for the Muslim community to feel dejected:
Congress leader Digvijay Singh
"I would say that faith cannot be a fact in a court of law, in a judgment. Of course this is something the Supreme Court will deliberate. But I think there is no need for despondency because the rights of the Muslims have also been recognized and one third has been given to the Waqf Council."
Calls for dialogue
The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said the litigating parties should rather work out a better solution through dialogue than move the courts again:
An Indian family watch television as they await news on the Ayodhya verdict
"Whether the mediation is officiated with the consent of all parties concerned is yet unclear. But if it starts anytime it is a welcome move. I think courts can go only so far. After that it is for the communities all across the country and those particularly from Ayodhya to sit together and work to resolve this. After all, everyone wants to co-exist and mutually appreciate one another. I would underline it is not mutual tolerance but mutual appreciation."
There is a feeling among many politicians that the verdict will pave the way for a negotiated settlement of the issue. Many hope the country is ready for a new and historic beginning.
Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein