India’s Supreme Court has suspended a High Court ruling over the partition of a disputed site that has been a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim clashes, throwing one of the country’s most religiously-divisive legal battles into uncertainty. A two-justice bench questioned the reasoning behind a ruling passed last year that divided the site of the former Babri Masjid mosque destroyed by Hindu rioters in 1992 into three separate plots for Hindus, Muslims, and a local Hindu trust.
The demolition of the 16th century mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya triggered some of India’s worst riots that killed about 2,000 people. Over 200,000 police were deployed for the September ruling to guard against communal violence.
“This (ruling) is very strange and surprising. Nobody has prayed for partition of the area. The Allahabad High Court has given a new relief which was not sought by anybody,” said Aftab Alam, the presiding judge, on Monday. The two judges ordered that the “status quo” should be maintained at the site, banning either of the groups from beginning construction activities.