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The Supreme Court of India awards a controversial religious site to Hindus in a landmark decision

The Supreme Court of India on Saturday awarded the Hindus an extremely controversial religious site, defeating the Muslims who also claim the land that provoked some of the bloodiest riots in the history of independent India .

The decision in the dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of Ayodhya, a city in the north of the country, proposal long supported by the Hindu nationalist party in power, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The representatives of the Muslim group involved in the case described the judgment as unfair and stated that he was likely to request a review of the verdict.

In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed the sixteenth century Babri Mosque on the site, causing riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.

Judicial battles over ownership of the site followed.

The jubilant Hindus, who have long campaigned for the construction of a temple on the ruins of the mosque, unleashed firecrackers during a celebration in Ayodhya after the announcement of the court decision.

Thousands of paramilitary and police personnel have been deployed to Ayodhya and other sensitive areas of India. There were no immediate reports of agitation.

"This verdict should not be seen as a victory or a loss for anyone," Modi said on Twitter.

"Peace and harmony prevail!"

Nevertheless, the verdict should be seen as a victory for Modi's Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party and its supporters.

Indian women walk in Jammu, India, in front of Rapid Action Force soldiers, following the court's decision. (Channi Anand / The Associated Press)

This was months after the Modi government deprived the Muslim majority region of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status as a state, thus holding a new election promise for its largely Hindu support base.

Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University, near New Delhi, said the court ruling would benefit the BJP, which was re-elected in May, but that the economic slowdown will finally occupy the front. of the scene for the voters.

"In the short term, the BJP will be stimulated," Sircar said. "These things do not work forever … Ram Temple is not going to put food on the table."

Hindus believe that the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and say that the site was sacred to Hindus well before Mughal Muslims, the most prominent Islamic rulers of the world. India, built the Babri Mosque in 1528.

& # 39; Milestone & # 39;

The five-judge court, presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, rendered a unanimous judgment to yield the land of 2.77 acres, about the size of a football field, to the Hindu group.

The court also ordered that another 5-hectare plot in Ayodhya be provided to the Muslim group who disputed the case, but that was not enough to relieve some of them.

Hindu holy men celebrate the verdict on Saturday in Ayodhya, India, in a land claims dispute between Muslims and Hindus dating back several decades. (Rajesh Kumar Singh / The Associated Press)

"The country is becoming a Hindu nation," Asaduddin Owaisi, an influential Muslim opposition politician, told reporters.

Modi's party hailed this decision as a "milestone".

"I welcome the decision of the court and appeal to all religious groups for them to accept it," Interior Minister Amit Shah, also president of the Ministry of Interior, said on Twitter. BJP.

Calls to calm

The Sunni Muslim group involved in this case said it would likely file a petition for review, which could trigger another protracted legal battle.

"This is not a justice," said the group's lawyer, Zafaryab Jilani.

Muslim organizations called for calm.

Hindus have distributed treats to celebrate the court's verdict in the context of a decades-old land title dispute between Muslims and Hindus in Ayodhya, India on Saturday. (Rajesh Kumar Singh / The Associated Press)

The Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the parent organization of Modi's party – was already pronounced against any celebration in order to avoid provoking sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims with Indian majority , which make up 14% of the 1.3 billion inhabitants.

Restrictions were imposed on gatherings in some places and Internet services were suspended. Elsewhere, police monitored social media to stop rumors.

Ayodhya streets were largely deserted and security guards patrolled the main road leading to Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, in the north of the country.

The inhabitants of Ayodhya were glued to their television and their mobile phone to hear news of the decision, which delighted the Hindus upon his arrival.

"Everyone should come together to have the construction work start on the site without delay," said Jitan Singh, roadside salesman, about the songs of "Jai Shri Ram" (hail, Lord Ram) from his fellow traders.

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