India Ayodhya Verdict Delayed by Concerns over Hindu-Muslim Tensions

Article excerpt

Tuesday, India's Supreme Court will hear a petition for more mediation in a 1992 case in which Hindus zealots destroyed a mosque on a long-contested site. The Ayodha verdict, due last week, has been delayed for security reasons.

India's highest court is to hear a petition Tuesday concerning a patch of ground claimed by both Hindus and Muslims that caused one of the worst cases of communal violence since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947.

In 1992, after decades of conflict over the 47-acre site in Ayodhya, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Hindu zealots tore down a mosque that had stood there since the 16th century. The demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque unleashed riots across India in which 2,000 people died, most of them Muslim.

Tuesday, India's Supreme Court will hear a petition for more mediation on a case combining several Hindu and Muslim lawsuits that will delay the outcome of the Ayodhya verdict. Originally set for Sept. 24, the verdict will determine legal ownership of the site. According to the petition, a decision now would pose a security risk at a time when India's security concerns are focused on the Commonwealth Games, which New Delhi will host from Oct. 3 to 14.

The public mood

The issue of the Babri Masjid is thought to have lost some of its power to mobilize mass hysteria in recent years. There has been no large-scale violence between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority since sectarian violence in the western state of Guajarat killed some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002.

But India's government has not wanted to take any chances. Extra security forces have been deployed across Uttar Pradesh, while Delhi has canceled ministers' trips. The government even issued appeals in newspapers across the country, urging calm in the wake of a verdict.

Long venerated by Hindus and Muslims

For more than a century, a group of Hindus have claimed that the mosque, commissioned by the Mughal emperor Babar in 1528, had been built over the site of a Hindu temple. …