A site in northern India that Hindus and Muslims have disputed for centuries will host a temple to Lord Rama rather than a mosque, India’s Supreme Court ruled on Saturday in a landmark decision.

In a unanimous decision, the justices overturned the 2010 ruling of the High Court of the Uttar Pradesh state, which ordered the partitioning of the 2.77-acre lot.

It will instead be handed to a trust which will oversee the construction of a Hindu temple. The Muslims will be allocated five acres of land at a different location where they will be able to erect a mosque, the court said.

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The lot in the focus of the conflict is located in the city of Ayodhya and is believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, one of the major deities of the religion.

In the 16th century, however, a mosque was built on the hill. A recent archeological study found evidence of a structure that existed at the site prior to that, but scientists could not say definitively whether it was a Hindu temple.

Protesters burn effigies of BJP party leaders in Calcutta on December 6, 2000. Activists believe these Indian leaders are responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid mosque destroyed in 1992. PK/CC via AFP



The rivalry over who should possess the land has gone on for centuries, with attempts to replace the mosque with a temple to Rama recorded as early as the 1880s. In 1992, tensions escalated into a Hindu takeover and razing of the Babri Masjid mosque. The act angered Muslims and led to riots, in which over 2,000 people were killed in Ayodhya alone.

That violence is on everyone’s minds after the Saturday ruling. New Delhi police warned people against disrupting public order and warned it was monitoring social media for incitement.

The head of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, an advocacy group for the rights of Muslims which was involved in the legal challenge, called on supporters to not hold demonstrations despite the unsatisfactory outcome.

“We are not satisfied with some aspects of the judgment. We will see the final judgment and decide the course of action,” Zafaryab Jilani said.

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