India's Supreme Court has agreed to delay a verdict in a religious dispute over a holy site in Ayodhya that has shaken the core of modern India and led to repeated outbreaks of Hindu-Muslim violence. A lower court had been scheduled to rule on Friday in the 60-year-old case on whether the site should be given to the Hindu community to build a temple to the god Rama or returned to the Muslim community to rebuild the 16th-century Babri Mosque.
But India's top court deferred the ruling and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to consider a further delay to allow the Hindu and Muslim communities a chance to resolve the 150-year-old dispute on their own, said Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer who argued in front of the court for the delay. "The Supreme Court felt a last attempt should be made to resolve this amicably," he said. The government had feared that a decision in the dispute could set off a repeat of the communal violence that killed 2,000 people in nationwide rioting in 1992 after a mob of Hindu extremists descended on Ayodhya and tore down the Babri mosque.
Hindus protested that the mosque, built in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, had been erected at the birthplace of Rama. The government had appealed for calm ahead of the verdict, sent thousands of extra police to Ayodhya and barred anyone from sending mass text messages for three days after the verdict to prevent agitators from mobilising violent protests. *AP