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India holy site 'should be divided'

A holy site that sparked riots across India in the past should be divided between the Hindu and Muslim communities, a court has ruled.

But the Muslim community immediately said it would appeal against the ruling at the country's Supreme Court.

Muslims revere the compound in Ayodhya as the site of the now-demolished 16th century Babri Mosque, while Hindus say it is the birthplace of the god Rama.

The Allahabad High Court ruled that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of one-third and two Hindu groups splitting the remainder.

The Hindus will keep the area where a small tent-shrine to Rama has been erected.

"The majority ruled that the location of the makeshift temple is the birthplace of Rama, and this spot cannot be shifted," said one of the lawyers.

The court also ruled that the current status of the site should continue for the next three months to allow for the land to be peacefully measured and divided, he said.

Hindu lawyers also said they would appeal, and immediate reaction to the ruling was muted and seemed unlikely to spark violence, as the government had feared.

Hindus rushed to give thanks at temples in Ayodhya, where the atmosphere was peaceful.

"It is very clear the case will go to the Supreme Court. It is not our final victory," said Nitya Gopal Das, president of a Hindu trust involved in the suit.

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