NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered an end to hearings in a long-running dispute between Hindus and Muslims over a historic place of worship, laying the ground for a verdict that could lead to further divisions.

Hindus claim the site in the northern town of Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram and want a temple built on the ruins of a historic mosque that was torn down by extremists in 1992, triggering deadly riots across the country.

Muslims, on the other hand, want the 16th century mosque to be rebuilt and leaders from the two sides have been arguing over the matter for decades.

“Enough is enough,” Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said in a packed courtroom in New Delhi, sitting alongside four other judges.

Verdict is likely to be announced next month

“Hearing in this matter is going to be completed today,” he said.

Hindu groups tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have been agitating for a temple at the site.

Lawyers, journalists and a couple of saffron-robed Hindu monks jostled for space in the courtroom as both sides made their case over who the land should be given to, quoting historical information.

Chief Justice Gogoi is expected to announce a verdict next month.

“We have made our submissions, now whatever happens is in the hands of the almighty,” Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer representing the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

Sharad Sharma, spokesman of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a Hindu nationalist organisation, said he was confident of a verdict in favour of the Hindus.

During the proceedings Rajeev Dhawan, a lawyer for one of the Muslim parties in the case, tore up a map purportedly showing that a temple once existed on the disputed site.

Another lawyer, who is in his 90s, has been representing the infant Lord Ram in the case.

Ahead of the court decision, local authorities banned gatherings of more than four people across Ayodhya town to prevent a trouble between majority Hindus and Muslims, who make up 12 per cent of the population.

Thousands of people have died in riots that have erup­ted over the Ayodhya issue over the years.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019