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court ruled on Thursday that the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya would be split

between Hindus and Muslims, dousing immediate fears of a violent backlash in one of
the country's most religiously divisive cases.

The Uttar Pradesh court also ruled Hindus will be allowed to keep a makeshift temple
that was built over the demolished central mosque dome, sparking celebrations by priests
who dipped in a nearby river chanting "The temple is now ours".

The 1992 demolition of the 16th century mosque in northern India by Hindu mobs
triggered some of India's worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. More than 200,000
police fanned out in India on Thursday to guard against any communal violence.

(For slideshow, click http://in.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?


articleId=INRTXSJZO)

If the ruling soothes tensions, it would be a boost for the ruling Congress party, a left-of-
centre group with secular roots, that does not want to upset either voter bloc. Major
political parties had called for calm.

"I know that often it is only a few mischief makers who create divisions in our society,"
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement.

"I would appeal to my countrymen to be vigilant and not let such people succeed in
disrupting peace and harmony."

The verdict was handed down days before Sunday's opening of the Commonwealth
Games in New Delhi, with the government wanting to project an image of stability and
modernity to the world.

"Nobody has won. Nobody has lost," Yashwant Sinha, a leader of the Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party, told local television. "Let's not look at this as a victory for
anyone."

Muslims did appear the biggest losers. But Muslim organisations were measured in their
response, careful not to inflame public tensions in a country where they account for only
13 percent of the 1.2 billion plus population.

There were no immediate reports of violence after the ruling.

"It was a very sensible judgment and the court has tried to balance the parties," said Anil
Verma, a political analyst. "Apportioning one-third to the Muslims means they have not
completely lost."

Commentators said the verdict was unlikely to spark widespread riots that hit the
financial capital Mumbai and other cities in 1992. There is little electoral headway to be
made in egging on religious riots in post-economic reform India.
The 2-1 majority verdict gave two-thirds of the key parts of the disputed land to Hindus --
one third each to two different Hindu groups -- and one third to Muslims.

Hindu inhabitants of Ayodhya town -- under a security lockdown for a week -- lit candles
and lamps outside their homes.

MUSLIM DISAPPOINTMENT

Many Muslim organisations expressed some disappointment but called for reconciliation,
resting hopes in an appeal by Muslim lawyers to the Supreme Court in New Delhi.

"The judgment can begin a process of reconciliation," Kamal Farooqi, a member of the
All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

From the capital New Delhi to Mumbai and towns of the northern Hindu "cow belt"
along the holy Ganges river, many Indians waited with apprehension on the verdict, some
staying at home and stocking up with food.

"Everybody is very happy with the verdict. People were scared but now everything seems
to be normal. People are now opening their shops," said Ghulam Mohammad Sheik, a
social worker in Mumbai.

The verdict's outcome will be a barometer of whether a rapidly globalising India with a
growing middle class and an interest in investor stability has shed some of the religious
extremism that often marred its post-independence years.

"I just think there is a moment in which we have to agree with ourselves as modern
people to live in the modern world," British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie told NDTV
broadcaster before the verdict was announced.

(Added reporting by Henry Foy, Krittivas Mukherjee, Matthias Williams, and C.J.
Kuncheria in New Delhi; Ketan Bondre and Surojit Gupta in Mumbai; Bappa Majumdar
in Ayodhya; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Paul de Bendern)

Bury the dispute now, don't go to apex court: Ayodhya residents

Ayodhya, Sep 30 (IANS) Residents of Ayodhya largely want that the various parties in
the Ayodhya title suit case must accept the High Court's judgment and should not move
Supreme Court, as it may initiate another legal battle that may take several years more to
reach conclusion.

'We have seen what happened in the case in which the verdict was pronounced by the
High Court in Lucknow today (Thursday)... It took nearly 60 years... As we don't want
another legal battle to start, we urge the parties involved in the case that they should not
move the apex court in the interest of the public,' Haji Assad Ahmad, the corporator of
the Ram Kot ward of the city, told IANS.
Echoing similar sentiments, Abdul Qayum, a retired teacher, said: 'You must have now
realised that the common man of the country, particularly the residents here, just don't
want to keep the dispute alive... Common people very well know that they would not lose
or win anything out of this dispute that has been exploited by political outfits in the past.'

'Residents of Ayodhya have been worst affected by the age-old dispute... Ask them and
they would tell you how life has been for them amid security checks, flag marches and
other operations that make you feel every time that the place you are living in is highly
sensitive.'

Chandan Pandey, a post-graduate student at the Saket Degree College said: 'Enough is
enough... It has been 60 long years. It's the time to move on and bury the dispute. Both
Hindus and Muslims here feel that the high court's judgment should mark the closure of
the legal battle.'

Karuna Shankar, who runs a coaching centre, said there was an urgent need to focus on
more issues related to development, education and infrastructure, instead of keeping the
age-old issue alive.

'We need hospitals in Ayodhya, jobs for youths, better educational institutions. We need
all-round development of Ayodhya. If the dispute continues to remain at the centre stage,
Ayodhya will never progress... It would not wrong if I say the development of the city
has virtually come to a standstill for the last several years,' he added.

Residents were of the view that Muslim and Hindu clerics must take up the initiative to
project that the common man would not achieve anything from the issue.

'Clerics from both the communities must appeal to the parties to end the dispute at this
stage. They can also take necessary steps to resolve the issue by an amicable settlement
that would be the best option to deal with such an issue which has religious sentiments
attached to it,' said Qasim Malid, a resident of Paanji Tola here.