India’s top court has awarded a disputed religious site to Hindus – rejecting a rival Muslim claim.
The verdict threatens to heighten tensions between the two communities, which have been embroiled in a bitter dispute over the land – with deadly riots ensuing.
The unanimous ruling paves the way for the building of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a move long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.
It will be seen as a political victory for Mr Modi, who won a second term in a landslide general election win this year.
The row over ownership has been one of the country’s most contentious issues.
Hindus believe the three-acre plot of land – which is about the size of a football pitch – was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
They argue the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built what was known as the Babri mosque there in 1528.
The mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992, triggering religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed across the country.
It also led to a series of court battles with various groups staking claim to the site.
The Honourable Supreme Court has given its verdict on the Ayodhya issue. This verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody.
Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti, it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti.
May peace and harmony prevail!
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 9, 2019
India’s supreme court directed that an alternate parcel of land be provided to a Muslim group that had staked a claim to the disputed site.
The land has been heavily protected since the 1992 religious clashes.
Ahead of the ruling, security was tightened in Ayodhya and across India, especially in cities that have been the scene of communal violence previously.
In some regions, restrictions were placed on gatherings and police were monitoring social media to curb rumours that could inflame community tensions.
In some towns, internet services were also suspended, while schools and colleges have been closed until Monday.
In a series of tweets last night, Mr Modi said: “Whatever decision of the supreme court will come on Ayodhya, it will not be a victory or defeat for anyone.
“My appeal to the countrymen is that it should be the priority of all of us that this decision should further strengthen the great tradition of peace, unity and goodwill of India.”
Hindu supporters and activists celebrated the ruling on the court lawns, blowing bugles and chanting “Jai Shree Ram”, or hailing the god Ram.
A lawyer representing the Muslims deplored the ruling.
“We are not satisfied with the verdict and it’s not up to our expectation,” said Zafaryab Jilani, who is representing the Muslim community group.
He hinted at filing a review petition in the supreme court challenging Saturday’s verdict. At the same time, he appealed to members of all communities to maintain peace.
Vishnu Shankar Jain, an attorney who represented the Hindu community, said it had been a struggle.
“It was a huge legal battle and we are happy that we convinced the supreme court. It’s a historic moment for Hindus,” he said.
Raj Nath Singh, India’s defence minister, appealed to people to “accept the court verdict and maintain peace”.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, criticised the verdict, saying it was indicative of the “hate-based mindset” of Mr Modi’s government.
“This is nothing but Modi’s government continued policies of cultivating seeds of hatred and promoting differences between the communities and religious segments of the population to achieve its designs,” he said.
Should Trump be impeached? Voters are as split as politicians | US News
It was a fascinating end to a week of intense testimony.
Fiona Hill, the daughter of a British coal miner, started with a stark warning to those claiming that it was Ukraine and not Russia who meddled in the 2016 US election.
The former aide to then national security adviser John Bolton delivered a stern rebuke of lawmakers, and implicitly Donald Trump, for pushing a “fictional narrative”.
They were, she said, perpetuating a Putin lie and undermining public faith in American democracy.
Some Republicans on the intelligence committee, including ranking member Devin Nunes, continue to advance the idea that Russian interference was a “hoax”.
In Moscow, Vladimir Putin sounded almost gleeful with the fact that theory was getting such a public and official airing.
“Thank God,” he declared. “No one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”
But Ms Hill – composed, robust and clearly concerned – told the hearing that Russia was busy gearing up to meddle in 2020 too.
She also provided a withering assessment of Gordon Sondland, the EU ambassador who, in a stunning U-turn on Wednesday, stated that there was definitely a quid pro quo and that “everyone was in the loop”.
Ms Hill said Mr Sondland had carried out a “domestic political errand” for Mr Trump while she and her colleagues were involved in “national security policy”.
She told House investigators that she came to realise he wasn’t simply operating outside official diplomatic channels, as some assumed, but was in fact carrying out instructions from Mr Trump.
Mr Sondland had admitted exactly that the day before.
Ms Hill and David Holmes, a state department adviser in Kiev, claimed it was abundantly clear that Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pursing political investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden in Ukraine.
She said she knew then it would “come back to haunt us”. She added that her former boss, Mr Bolton, had also expressed concern that a “drug deal” was being cooked up.
But he, like so many in the White House, has not testified.
You only have to step outside for a few minutes to see how differently the public viewed their pair.
One man declared her “elitist and “irrelevant”. Another woman called her “the very best of America”. It all comes down to who you believe.
As a long day drew to a close, Mr Nunes told the room that this was simply a “show trial”, driven by Democrats who had reached their verdict before they had even begun.
Today and throughout this impeachment process, Republicans have characterised the evidence as third-hand and third-rate.
Ms Hill was not on the July call that sparked this inquiry and she like so many others, they argue, should be discounted.
I would say up to half of those I have met in the long queues outside the hearing think the Republicans have a point.
Voters are just as split as those who are representing them.
So what next? Well, Democrats could file articles of impeachment before Christmas and hold a vote.
Given they have the majority, it is certainly looking like they would vote to impeach President Trump.
But it is also likely that the Republican-controlled Senate won’t vote to convict him.
It’s also absolutely plausible that he wins a second term.
The president’s supporters seemed almost resigned to the idea that he’ll be impeached, but also determined to keep him in office.
UK defies US over ‘illegal’ Israeli expansion into West Bank | World News
Britain has defied the US by urging Israel to stop its “counterproductive” expansion into the occupied West Bank.
The Foreign Office has waded into the debate after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the White House was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the territory.
It was the latest move from the Trump administration to anger Palestinians, as it weakened their claims to ownership of the state and put Washington at odds with other nations working to end the long-running conflict.
Responding to the change in policy, the Foreign Office said: “The position of the UK on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution.
“We urge Israel to halt its counterproductive settlement expansion.”
The announcement by Mr Pompeo had angered Palestinians, with a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas claiming settlements are illegal under international law.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the US government had “lost credibility to play any future role in the peace process”.
Since becoming US president, Donald Trump has made a number of foreign policy decisions in favour of Israel.
The most controversial move was to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Middle Eastern country, angering those who labelled it a severe blow to the Middle East peace process.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly welcomed the support of Mr Trump, although his backing has done nothing to help him form a new government despite two elections this year.
In more bad news for Mr Netanyahu, he has been indicted on corruption charges including fraud and bribery.
The allegations include suspicions that he accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends – and offered to trade favours with a newspaper publisher.
Mr Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in three corruption cases and – in Donald Trump style – has previously dismissed the investigations into him as a “witch hunt”.
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