For 150 years, Hindus and Muslims both claimed a site that is sacred to their religions, positions that triggered some of the worst rioting in India's history. Today, a court came up with a compromise: Split it. Both sides said they would appeal. But the muted reaction to the potentially explosive verdict generated hopes that the country, with its growing regional clout and skyrocketing economy, has moved beyond its divisive history. This "shows that we have become a mature nation," said a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board.
The dispute over the religious site in the city of Ayodhya, 350 miles east of New Delhi, has been one of the country's most contentious issues. Hindus argue that the Babri Mosque erected there by Muslims in 1528 stood on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. They want to build an enormous temple to Rama on the site, while Muslims want to rebuild the mosque. The ruling will likely force both groups to scale down those plans.