Bangalore, India (RNS/ENInews) Churches in India have joined other faiths and political leaders in calling for calm after a court ruled that a religious site violently disputed by Hindus and Muslims should be split between the two groups.
The high court of northern Uttar Pradesh state issued its ruling Thursday (Sept. 30) in the protracted case, which concerns ownership of the site of the former Babri mosque at Ayodhya, about 420 miles southeast of New Delhi. The case has been pending for more than half a century.

Two of the three judges declared that Hindus have the right of ownership to the main disputed area. The court granted Muslims and a Hindu group control of other parts of the site.

Hindus consider the location the birthplace of the god Ram, and placed a Ram idol inside the mosque in 1949.

In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed the mosque, built by the Mughal Empire ruler Babar in 1528. In the violence that followed, more than 2,000 people died.

Some legal experts say the court decision is a victory for Hindu groups; the National Council of Churches in India, which includes Orthodox and Protestant churches, called for calm.

Christopher Rajkumar, executive secretary of the NCCI’s justice and peace commission, told ENInews: “We do not want to go into the merits of the judgment at this moment. We have to study it carefully. We want peace and harmony in the country.”

Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, echoed these sentiments and appealed for peace.

In addition, Hindu groups and leaders of various political parties have appealed for “peace and calm,” against a background of general concern.

“The worst has been averted,” noted D’Souza, referring to the three-way split of the 2.6 acre disputed land that the court ordered. The site is currently under the control of the federal government.

Still, D’Souza said that he would have been happier if those who pulled down the Babri mosque in 1992 had been punished, or at least reprimanded, when the court gave its verdict.

Some Hindu groups that see the verdict as a victory for themselves have urged Muslims to accept the verdict and allow the building of a Ram temple on the disputed site, “in the national interest.”

The Muslim litigants have said they will appeal the verdict in the federal Supreme Court.

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