ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Saturday the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Hindu group in a long-running battle over a centuries old religious site also claimed by Muslims reflected the “bigoted ideology” of the Delhi government, state media reported.
The ruling paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.
The five-judge bench delivered a unanimous judgment, opting to hand over the plot of 2.77 acres of land to one of the Hindu groups that had staked a claim on it. The judge said a temple should be built on the disputed land by forming a trust under the control of the central government.
The ruling comes even as the old rivals prepared on Saturday to open the Kartarpur border crossing for Indian pilgrims to visit a Sikh temple, one of their most significant acts of cooperation in decades.
“The Foreign Minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] noted that Muslims are already under a lot of pressure in India and this decision of the Indian court will further increase pressure on them,” state-run radio Pakistan said in a report.
Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs also slammed the decision in a press statement on Saturday, and said the decision “shredded the veneer of a so-called secular India” by being unable to protect the rights of its minorities.
“The rising tide of extremist ideology in India, based on the belief of Hindu supremacy and exclusion, is a threat to regional peace and stability,” the statement said.
For more than seven decades, right-wing Hindu campaigners have been pushing to build a temple on the site, which they believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
They say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built what was known as the Babri Mosque there in 1528.
In 1992, the mosque was razed to the ground by a Hindu mob. Its destruction triggered religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed across the country and led to a series of court battles with various groups staking their claim to the site.
In a post on his personal Twitter account. Pakistani military spokesman General Asif Ghafoor said the Indian court verdict showed the “true ugly face of extremist India.”
Pakistani Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry called the ruling “shameful, disgusting, illegal and immoral” on Twitter and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari compared it to Pakistan’s decision to green light the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor.
“The contrast between the Indian SC’s verdict on Babri Mosque strengthening the Hindutva creed and Pakistan’s opening of the Kartarpur Corridor — both on the same day — could not be more stark!” Mazari posted on Twitter.
The border crossing pact between the nuclear-armed neighbors allows visa-free access from India to the Pakistani town of Kartarpur, home to a temple that marks the site where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, died.
Hundreds of Indian delegates including members of the opposition crossed the border for the Saturday ceremony, though Pakistani officials familiar with the guest list said there was no representation from India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Despite good news on the border crossing, Pakistan’s FM Qureshi said relations had not been as strained as they are now since the two sides battled on their border for months in the northern area of Kargil in 1999.
“There is no back-channel. We’ve had wars, things have been worse than this, but things are bad,” Qureshi told Reuters in an interview in Lahore late on Friday. “For any sane mind, it is concerning.”