In Ayodhya on Friday, people rushed to buy newspapers to read about the previous day’s court judgement, with some drawing chalk outlines of the site on the pavement to understand the split.
Locals returned to the streets of the northern pilgrimage town, which had been locked down by thousands of security forces on Thursday amid fears of a backlash against the High Court ruling on a plot claimed by Hindus and Muslims.
“It is a great judgement for the people of Ayodhya,” said Bihari Lal, a Hindu school teacher who was reading an English newspaper and translating the news about the court verdict in Hindi for his neighbors.
“It will now allow people to move on and think of the future.”
The whole country had been on tenterhooks Thursday as it awaited the High Court ruling on which religious group should own the site where the Babri mosque was torn down by Hindu zealots in 1992, sparking deadly riots.
The ruling proposed that the parcel of land where the mosque once stood be divided in three parts, with one for Muslims and two for Hindus, who will also get the central part of the plot, where they plan to build a temple.
Men and women could be seen sitting outside their houses, discussing the newspaper interpretations of the judgement. Some made sketches on the ground to try to visualise the complex partition.
“After six decades, the city now has a chance to forget the past and talk about development, education and economic improvement. These should be the main concern,” said Desh Bandhu Rai, a tea vendor.
“I thank Lord Ram and Allah for ending this battle,” he said.
Hindus believe that their warrior god Ram was born at the site of the mosque and saints and monks gathered in temples Friday to hum prayers to him. Others distributed pictures of the disputed site among worshippers.
“I am sure once the temple is made, Ayodhya will regain it’s lost glory and fame,” said Swami Niranjan Mohan Maharaj, a temple priest. “Tourists from all over the world will throng the town for one glance of Lord Ram.”
Several Muslims refused to comment on the verdict, conscious of the danger of provoking ill-feeling in a town still scarred by the violence of 1992, which let 2,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.
“I don’t want to speak about the matter. If I say anything then chances are the Hindus will not like it and we will start fighting again,” said Ameen Sheikh Sardar, a car mechanic.
“We Muslims have decided to remain silent. The less we talk about the disputed land, the better it is for the people of Ayodhya,” he said.
Though many hoped that Thursday’s judgement was the end of the dispute, the litigants have promised to appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court, meaning the battle will rumble on in the country’s notoriously slow legal system.
Paramilitary security forces drafted in to help with security on Thursday were being withdrawn from the streets already, leaving police to take over.
“There have been no incidents of violence or any disturbances in Ayodhya since Thursday evening but we are still keeping a very tight vigil,” said Rakesh Pandey, a senior police official in Ayodhya.
“The issue is still fresh in the minds of the people. They are discussing it.”