India's Muslims anxiously await Supreme Court verdict over destroyed mosque

India's Muslims anxiously await Supreme Court verdict over destroyed mosque
The Babri Masjid issue is a centuries-old religious dispute which has cast a long shadow over relations between India's Muslim minority and the majority Hindu community.
3 min read
04 November, 2019

India's Muslims anxiously await a Supreme Court verdict over the destruction of mosque in the city of Ayodhya in northern India.

The issue is a centuries-old religious dispute which has cast a long shadow over their relations with the majority Hindu community. 

The Supreme Court of India in August decided to hear the case every day in an effort to resolve the dispute over what should be built on the remains of the 16th Century Babri Masjid that was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992.

The chaos has led to some of India's deadliest riots, in which nearly 2,000 people - mostly Muslims - were killed.

The controversy raises questions about the role of religion in a secular country, and the place of Muslims in it.

Also read: Indian PM Modi's BJP crushed in Kashmir elections despite being the only party contesting polls

The Babri Masjid was built by general Mir Baqi at the orders of Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, in the early 1500s.

It is believed by Hindus to be built on the spot where a central deity Lord Ram was born, and allege that Baqi had destroyed a temple that stood on the site, despite the lack of archaeological proof.

The mosque has been mired in controversy for the last two centuries, with a Hindu mob finally demolishing the structure on 6 Dec 1992.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi finished the hearings last month and is expected to pronounce his verdict in the next couple of weeks.

'Mandir Wahin Banaenge!' (We will build temple there)

Whichever way it goes, the decision will have a significant bearing on the already tense relationship between Hindus and Muslims in India, of which the latter make up 14% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Most Muslim leaders want the mosque rebuilt, but Hindus insist a temple should be built on the site of the birthplace of their deity. Chanting the slogan ‘Mandir Wahin Banaenge!’, right wing groups have promised to build a temple on the site of the demolished mosque.

The construction of a 'Grand Temple' has been a key election promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, and has been a long held desire of the party’s ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu paramilitary organization and the largest NGO in the world.

The grandson of the former Imam of Babri Masjid, Mohammad Shahid, told Reuters that he has decided to move his family away. His father was among the victims who was killed by the mob that rampaged through Ayodhya in 1992.

Increasing communal tensions

Tensions between India’s Muslims and Hindus have worsened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

The lynching of Muslims over issues such as cow slaughter (cows are a sacred animal in Hinduism) have become increasingly common, with culprits rarely being caught and punished.

Earlier this year, the government implemented the creation of a National Registry of Citizens in the eastern state of Assam, claiming it is to identify illegal immigrants. Critics however have slammed the move as a way to identify and target the Muslim population. The leader of the BJP has likened the immigrants - overwhelmingly defined as 'Muslim' - to 'termites' and advocated for them to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal.

In its most controversial move, the government revoked the semi-autonomous status for Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. A lockdown on movement and a communications blackout has been implemented there since August, and life remains far from normal in the region.

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