At 10.30 AM on Saturday, November 9, India’s Supreme Court passed a historic judgment, settling the 150-year-old Ayodhya dispute by granting the highly debated site of the demolished Babri Masjid to a Hindu organisation to build the Ram Janmabhoomi temple. The main point of contention in this controversial dispute was that before the Babri Masjid was built in Ayodhya in the 16th century, it was a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ram, the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. That’s why, thousands of Hindu fundamentalists stormed the site in 1992, destroying the Babri Masjid and subsequently prompting a riotous division between the Hindu and Muslim communities, one that destroyed India’s social fabric forever. So now that India’s apex court has finally ruled in favour of one religious group over the other, the government has tightened security measures across the country, even imposing Section 144 that prevents the public gathering of more than four people, across several states. Not only have paramilitary forces been deployed in Ayodhya and other sensitive areas, but the government is also censoring social media in its efforts to prevent violence.
This has led to more than 77 people being arrested in Uttar Pradesh for making social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that authorities feel disturb “communal harmony”, while the total number of people arrested for posting inflammatory content in the country is coming up to 90. More than 8,000 social media posts that authorities consider to be controversial have either been taken down or reported as of yesterday. Meanwhile, more than seven people were also arrested for bursting firecrackers as a gesture to celebrate the controversial verdict, while five police officers in Madhya Pradesh were suspended for chatting on WhatsApp instead of doing their duty in this sensitive political climate.
"Police are appealing to residents to not misuse social media," Kalanidhi Naithani, senior superintendent of police in Lucknow, told Reuters on the day of the verdict.
While many say this judgement is “unfair” and question whether the ruling would be the same had the Masjid not been demolished all those years ago, most Muslim leaders and organisations have released statements saying they accept the verdict, while urging people to maintain the peace. So far, there has been no reported instance of violence following the verdict, but authorities remain worried that this situation could foster a favourable ground for those wanting exploit sentiments and fuel terror.
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