NEW DELHI: Two leading Muslim groups said on Sunday they will file petitions in India’s top court challenging its decision to award Hindus control of a bitterly disputed holy site that has sparked deadly inter-religious violence.

The Supreme Court ruled on November 9 that the holy site in Ayodhya, where Hindu mobs destroyed a 460-year-old mosque in 1992, must be managed by a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple.

A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to a Muslim group to build a “prominent” new mosque.

But the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Muslim scholar organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which were not part of the November 9 ruling, said they would contest the judgment.

AIMPLB “will file a review petition in the #BabriMasjid case due to the apparent errors in the supreme court verdict,” it tweeted on Sunday.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind president Arshad Madani told reporters that “it is not a prestige issue. This is a matter of Sharia. We can neither give the mosque, nor take anything in lieu of it”, local News18 network reported.

The Supreme Court routinely rejects petitions and AIMPLB sources told News18 they accepted that theirs could also be knocked back.

AIMPLB added that “on behalf of the Muslim community, we decline to accept the... land” awarded by the court, the Press Trust of India reported.

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the Muslim parties in the case, has said it accepted the ruling. It has yet to decide whether to accept the plot of land, local media reported.

The Supreme Court decision came after a 2010 ruling that the site should be divided — two-thirds controlled by Hindus and the remainder by Muslims — was contested by both parties, sparking the lengthy legal tussle.

“There are apparent errors in the Supreme Court judgment, and we felt that it would be prudent to file a review petition,” Syed Qasim Ilyas, a member of the group.

The main Muslim litigant in the case, the Sunni Wakf Board, has declined to file a review, saying it respected the verdict.

The site, where in 1528 a mosque was built by an associate of the Mughal emperor Babur, has been the centre of a bitter dispute between India’s majority Hindus and Muslims, who make up about 14 percent of the population, since Indian independence.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019