India's Supreme Court Suspends Ruling on Disputed Ayodhya Holy Site

Article excerpt

Lawyers welcomed ruling by India's Supreme Court Monday that suspended a ruling on the Ayodhya holy site. The ruling last year had divided the disputed site between Muslims and Hindus.

India's highest court Monday suspended a historic verdict that had sought to end controversy over one of the most hotly disputed religious sites in the world.

Last September, Allahabad High Court ruled that dusty patch of land in Ayodhya, a town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which has long been claimed by both Hindu and Muslim groups, should be shared.

For more than a century, members of the two religions had fought over the site, once home to a 16th-century mosque. Some Hindus believe the mosque, the Babri Masjid, was built over a temple to the god Ram. In 1992, a frenzied Hindu mob tore down the Babri Masjid with pickaxes and their bare hands. In the riots that followed, more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed. It sharply exacerbated hostility between Hindus and Muslims and has often been cited as a reason for growing extremism among India's often alienated Muslim minority.

Monday, the Supreme Court suspended September's ruling, saying that it was "strange" because none of the litigants in the case had asked for the land to be divided. It had "opened a litany of litigation," it said.

Lawyers applauded the Supreme Court's ruling, agreeing that no one had asked for the site to be divided.

The Babri Masjid has roused strong feelings India-wide not only because of the communal violence it has sparked, but because of the central role it has played in recent Indian political history. Still, with no date set for a final ruling on the site, the ruling is unlikely to inflame Hindu-Muslim ties in India, say observers. …