Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has set up a trust tasked with building a Hindu temple in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court sided with Hindus against Muslims who wanted to erect a mosque on the same land.
The 15-member body “will take decisions independently on the construction of a Rama temple and related issues,” Modi said in a speech in parliament on Wednesday. He hailed the move as “a historic step,” paving the way for building the shrine in the ancient holy city of Ayodhya in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state, where, according to the Hindu tradition, the deity Lord Rama was born.
Today we take a historic step ahead towards building a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya!
It was my honour to address the Lok Sabha on this subject, which is special to many.
I also applauded the remarkable spirit of the people of India.
This is what I said… pic.twitter.com/MJHDHnR3Xo
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 5, 2020
Citing sources, NDTV reported that no political party will be part of the new trust. Interior Minister Amit Shah said that additional 67 acres of land will be transferred to the trust on top of the 0.3 acres designated for the Hindu temple by the Supreme Court.
For decades, the area in question was the epicenter of a bitter dispute between Hindu and Muslim communities who argued about whose religious shrine should be built there. Muslims wanted to erect a mosque at the site where their previous shrine, the 16th-century Babri Masjid, stood before being seized and razed by Hindu activists in 1992. The Hindus insisted that their temple should be built there instead.
In 2010, a regional court ruled the disputed land should be partitioned between Muslims and two Hindu groups. Last November, the Supreme Court overruled this decision and handed over the entire area for the construction of a Hindu shrine.
The judges said that Muslims had failed to produce evidence proving their exclusive rights to the site. Meanwhile, the court studied historic records and found evidence that the Hindus were making pilgrimages and worshipping at the area before the Babri Masjid was built. So, according to the ruling, Muslims were given a portion of land at a different location to build a mosque there.
Before the decision was announced, Modi said that the verdict “will not be a matter of victory or loss,” adding that it “should be our priority that the verdict should strengthen India’s great tradition of peace, unity, and amity.”
Sri Ram Janmabhoomi temple will soon become a reality for a new India. PM Narendra Modi delivers on a national promise that previous politicians failed to resolve or even address.https://t.co/ofHFxwpC0Q
— Dr David Frawley (@davidfrawleyved) February 5, 2020
Shortly after Modi’s Wednesday speech, the Uttar Pradesh government approved the allocation of a 5-acre piece of land to the local Muslim community for building a mosque, as per the court’s ruling.
Babri Masjid Verdict
India’s top court cleared the way, in November, 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.
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, the center of the bitter dispute, and elsewhere.
It remains to be seen if the verdict 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.