Indian Supreme Court clears way for Hindu temple at site where 460-year old mosque once stood

Thousands of extra security personnel were deployed and schools closed in and around Ayodhya, center of the bitter dispute, ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on the holy site. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2019

Indian Supreme Court clears way for Hindu temple at site where 460-year old mosque once stood

  • Ruling a huge victory for Hindu nationalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to Muslim groups to build a new mosque

NEW DELHI: India’s top court cleared the way on Saturday for a Hindu temple to be constructed at a hotly disputed holy site, in a huge victory for Hindu nationalists under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Supreme Court ruled that the site in Ayodhya in northern India, where Hindu mobs destroyed a 460-year-old mosque in 1992, must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, subject to conditions.

A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to Muslim groups to build a new mosque, the court ruled in a historic judgment aimed at ending a bitter and decades-old legal and sectarian battle.

Ahead of the verdict Indian authorities ramped up security across the country and Modi called for calm as police went on alert.

Thousands of extra personnel deployed and schools closed in and around the northern city of Ayodhya, center of the bitter dispute, and elsewhere.

Barricades were erected on roads leading to the Supreme Court building in New Delhi with officials and volunteers scouring social media for inflammatory posts in what is Facebook’s biggest market.

The verdict, it is hoped, will put an end to an angry and at times arcane legal wrangle that British colonial rulers and even the Dalai Lama tried to mediate.

Hard-liners among India’s majority Hindus, including supporters of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), believe that Lord Ram, the warrior god, was born in Ayodhya.

They say that in the 16th century, Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal Islamic dynasty, built a mosque on top of a temple at the 1.1-hectare site.

In the 1980s, as Hindu nationalism and the BJP began to strengthen, pressure grew for the mosque to be knocked down and replaced by a glorious Hindu temple.

In 1992, a Hindu mob estimated to number 200,000 did just that, reducing the mosque to rubble.

This unleashed some of the worst religious riots since India’s bloody partition at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, leaving around 2,000 people dead, mainly Muslims.

Ten years later in 2002, after 59 Hindu activists died in a blaze on a train from Ayodhya, riots in Gujarat state — when Modi was its chief minister — saw upwards of 1,000 people perish, again largely Muslims.

In 2010, a High Court ruled that Muslims and Hindus should split it — albeit unevenly, with Hindus granted the lion’s share.

This left no one happy. Both Hindu and Muslim groups appealed and the Supreme Court in 2011 stayed the lower court’s ruling, leaving the issue unresolved.

The case also involves a nonagenarian lawyer representing a Hindu deity and has seen a high drama including a lawyer representing Muslim groups tearing a purported ancient map showing the temple.

The BJP has campaigned for years for a temple to be built at Ayodhya, and the verdict is a major victory for the party, just months into Modi’s second term.

But it will also send shudders through many in the 200-million-strong Muslim minority who fear that the BJP is bent on turning India into a purely Hindu nation.

Modi is nevertheless desperate to avoid bloodshed and ahead of the verdict, the BJP and the more hard-line RSS organization have told supporters to avoid any provocative celebrations.

Muslim groups have also appealed for calm.

“Whatever is the verdict by the Supreme Court, it won’t be anybody’s win or loss,” Modi tweeted late Friday.

“My appeal to the people of India is that our priority is to ensure the verdict strengthens the values of peace, equality and goodwill of our country.”


France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

Updated 30 min 43 sec ago

France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

  • Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib

PARIS: The investigation into the murder in France of a teacher for showing caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer had a militant contact, a source close to the case said.
Seven people have been charged with being complicit in a “terrorist murder” after 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov killed Samuel Paty on Friday, including two teenagers who helped him identify the teacher.
France paid homage to Paty on Wednesday, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that the history and geography teacher had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.
In their search for accomplices, anti-terror investigators have now established that Anzorov had contact with a Russian-speaking militant in Syria whose identity is not yet known, the source told AFP.
Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.
In an audio message in Russian immediately after the killing, translated by AFP, Anzorov said that he had “avenged the Prophet” whom the teacher had shown “in an insulting way.”
The message was published on social media in a video, accompanied by two tweets, one showing the victim’s severed head and another in which Anzorov confessed to the murder.
Moments later he was shot dead by police. Anzorov decapitated Paty with a long knife.
Many of Paty’s students saw the images online before they could be taken down.
The teenagers who pointed out Paty to his killer in return for money were late Wednesday charged over the killing.

HIGHLIGHT

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.

The parent of one of Paty’s pupils, who started the social media campaign against the teacher even though his daughter was not in class when the cartoons were shown, was also charged.
Also charged was a known extremist radical who helped the father stir up outrage against Paty.
The other three facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of whom allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.
Two of them also face c harges of being complicit in terrorist murder while the third was charged with a lesser offense, the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.
Paty, 47, became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
Police have carried out dozens of raids since the crime, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective, a group they said supported Hamas.
The French government has earmarked for dissolution more than 50 other organizations it accuses of having links with extremists.
Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial of alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack started last month.
The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defense of free speech and the right to mock religion.
“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron vowed at a ceremony Wednesday in Paty’s honor at the Sorbonne university in Paris.