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India’s top court appoints arbitration panel for disputed holy site

Published: March 8, 2019

STORY: India’s Supreme Court appointed an arbitration panel on Friday (March 08) to mediate in a decades-long dispute over a controversial plan to build a Hindu temple on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

A panel has been appointed with Justice Kalifulla as the chairman, accompanied by spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sriram Panchu from Chennai High Court. They have to submit a progress report to the court within four months and will have to conclude the proceeding within eight weeks, said an advocate of the stake holder, Hindu Mahasabha, of the case, Barun Sinha.

With a general election looming in coming months, conservative Hindu allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have ratcheted up their longstanding demand for the construction of a temple.

In 1992, a militant Hindu mob tore down the mosque triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people in one of the worst instances of communal violence in India since the 1947 partition of the country.

While holding control over the controversial site in Uttar Pradesh State, the Supreme Court has been weighing petitions from both communities on what should be built there.

On Friday, the court appointed former judge F. M. Kalifulla to head an arbitration panel that includes spiritual guru Ravi Shankar and senior lawyer Sriram Panchu.

“We will make all efforts to resolve the issue amicably,” said Kalifulla.

Earlier, a five-judge panel, headed by Gogoi, had asked both Hindu and Muslim groups involved in the case to explore the possibility of resolving their dispute through mediation.

Hindu groups say there was a temple at the site before the mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528, and the dispute has fuelled ill-feeling between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims, who make up around 14 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

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