AHMEDABAD, India: Supporters of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) militant organization celebrate the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict to award the disputed religious site in Ayodhya to Hindus yesterday. – AFP

NEW
DELHI/AYODHYA/KARTARPUR: India’s Supreme Court yesterday awarded a bitterly
contested religious site to Hindus, dealing a defeat to Muslims who also claim
the land that has sparked some of the country’s bloodiest riots since
independence. The ruling in the dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups 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.

Yesterday’s
judgment, which is likely to be viewed as a win for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) and its backers, was criticized as unfair by a lawyer for the
Muslim group involved in the case. However, the group’s leader said ultimately
it would accept the verdict and called for peace between India’s majority
Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14 percent of its 1.3 billion people.

In 1992, a Hindu
mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque on the site, triggering riots in
which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.
Court battles over the ownership of the site followed. Jubilant Hindus, who
have long campaigned for a temple to be built on the ruins of the mosque,
cheered and set off fire crackers in celebration in Ayodhya after the court
decision was announced. Thousands of paramilitary force members and police were
deployed in Ayodhya and other sensitive areas across India. There were no
immediate reports of unrest.

“Today’s
Supreme Court decision has given the nation the message that even the most
difficult of all problems falls within the ambit of the constitution and within
the boundaries of the judicial system,” Modi said in a televised address
yesterday evening, calling for “a new India” free of hatred. He had
earlier tweeted that the verdict should not be seen as “a win or loss for
anybody”.

The ruling comes
months after Modi’s government stripped the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir
region of its special status as a state, delivering on yet another election
promise to its largely Hindu support base. Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant
professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi, said the verdict would benefit
the BJP, which won re-election in May, but a slowing economy would ultimately
take center stage for voters. “In the short term, there will be a boost
for the BJP,” said Sircar. “These things don’t work forever … Ram
Temple isn’t going to put food on the table.”

Hindus believe
the site is the birthplace of Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god
Vishnu, and say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals,
India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built the Babri mosque there in 1528.
The five-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, reached a
unanimous judgment to hand over the plot of just 2.77 acres (1.1 hectares), or
about the size of a football field, to the Hindu group.

The court also
directed that another plot of five acres (two hectares) in Ayodhya be provided
to the Muslim group that contested the case, but that was not enough to mollify
some critics. “The country is now moving towards becoming a Hindu
nation,” Asaduddin Owaisi, an influential Muslim opposition politician,
told reporters.

Across the border
in archrival Pakistan, the foreign ministry said the decision “shredded
the veneer of so-called secularism” in India and showed minorities were no
longer safe. India’s foreign ministry responded that Pakistan’s
“pathological compulsion to comment on our internal affairs with the
obvious intent of spreading hatred is condemnable”.

Modi’s party
hailed the ruling as a “milestone”. “I welcome the court
decision and appeal to all religious groups to accept the decision,” Home
Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, said on Twitter. A lawyer
for the Sunni Muslim group involved in the case initially said it would likely
file a review petition, which could have triggered another protracted legal
battle, but its chairman Zafar Farooqui later yesterday told reporters the
verdict had been accepted “with humility”.

Muslim
organizations appealed for calm. The Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh –
the parent organization of Modi’s party – had already decided against any
celebrations to avoid provoking sectarian violence. The BJP owes its origins to
the RSS, a militaristic group that has long espoused “Hindutva”, or
Hindu hegemony in officially secular India. Under Modi, a former RSS cadre,
Islamic-sounding names of several cities have been changed, while some school
textbooks have been altered to downplay Muslims’ contributions to India. There
has been a string of lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over cows, sacred for
many Hindus, and other hate crimes including Muslims forced to perform Hindu
chants.

Restrictions were
placed on gatherings in some places and Internet services were suspended.
Elsewhere, police monitored social media to curb rumors. Streets in Ayodhya
were largely deserted and security personnel patrolled the main road to
Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile,
hundreds of Indian Sikhs made a historic pilgrimage to Pakistan yesterday,
crossing through a white gate to reach one of their religion’s holiest sites,
after a landmark deal between the two countries separated by the 1947 partition
of the subcontinent. Cheering Sikhs walked joyfully along the road from Dera
Baba Nanak in India towards the new immigration hall that would allow them to
pass through a secure land corridor into Pakistan, in a rare example of
cooperation between the nuclear-armed countries divided by decades of enmity.

Some fathers ran,
carrying their children on their shoulders. Buses were waiting on the Pakistani
side to carry them along the corridor to the shrine to Sikhism’s founder Guru
Nanak, which lies in Kartarpur, a small town just four kilometres inside
Pakistan where he is believed to have died.

For up to 30
million Sikhs around the world, the white-domed shrine is one of their holiest
sites. However for Indian Sikhs, it has remained tantalizingly close – so close
they could stand at the border and gaze at its four cupolas – but out-of-reach
for decades. When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at the end of
British rule in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border,
while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side. Since then, the
perennial state of enmity between India and Pakistan has been a constant
barrier to those wanting to visit the temple, known in Sikhism as a gurdwara.

Pilgrims on both
sides of the border hoped the corridor might herald a thaw in South Asian
tensions. “When it comes to government-to-government relations, it is all
hate and when it comes to people-to-people ties, it’s all love,” one of
the Sikh pilgrims, who did not give his name, told Pakistani state TV as he
crossed. Among the first pilgrims was former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh, who told Pakistani state media that it was a “big moment”.

The opening even
inspired a singular message of gratitude from Indian Prime Minister Narendra
Modi to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan for “respecting the
sentiments of India”. For his part, Khan said a day would come “when
our relations with India will improve”. “I am hopeful that this the
beginning,” he told the pilgrims at the shrine.

For years India
had been asking Pakistan to grant Sikhs access to the shrine. Many believe it
has happened now because of the friendship between Khan, a World Cup winning
cricketer-turned politician, and India’s Navjot Singh Sidhu – another
cricketer-turned-politician. “When Sidhu asked me to open the border, I
kept it in my mind,” Khan told devotees yesterday. He compared the
situation to Muslims being able to see holy sites in Madinah, but never visit.

The opening comes
just days ahead of the Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday on Nov 12 – an anniversary
of huge significance for the global Sikh community, and which may also have
played a role in the timing. Sikhs from around the world have been arriving in
Pakistan ahead of the celebrations for days already. An estimated 7,000 were at
the shrine to hear Khan’s speech, though it was not clear how many had come via
the corridor and how many had arrived from elsewhere. Indian officials said
just 700 were expected to cross through the corridor yesterday.

Many were
emotional, some in tears. Others posed for selfies before a giant gold- and
silver-colored kirpan, the dagger which Sikhs must carry with them at all times
as an article of their faith. There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in
Pakistan after millions fled to India following the bloody religious violence
ignited by partition, which sparked the largest mass migration in human history
and led to the death of at least one million people. – Agencies

Fonte: https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/indias-supreme-court-gives-disputed-holy-site-to-hindus/

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