Indian Court Favors Hindus in Dispute Over Ayodhya Religious Site

In the hours after Saturday’s ruling, India’s Muslims were divided between those who want to contest the decision and those who want to move on for the sake of sectarian harmony. Those who want to contest it have come to see the restoration of the Babri Mosque as a proclamation of Muslims’ place in India, and they fear that more religious sites will be targeted for destruction.

After the court announced its verdict, senior government officials were quick to call journalists in and promise — anonymously — that no more mosques would be destroyed and that they, too, wanted to move on and focus on building the nation. Before this year’s election, Mr. Modi promised to deliver ambitious growth, to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025. But growth so far has been sluggish, with unemployment reaching a 45-year high.

“There is short-term fear about communal tensions,” said Milan Vaishnav, the director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s South Asia program. “The soil is pretty fertile for conflict.”

“The longer term fear,” he added, “is do Muslims and other minorities of India begin to feel resigned to a permanent status as second-class citizens? The genius of India in the way it was constructed is that it avoided that tension eating away at the state, unlike its neighbors.”

The ruling comes just three months after Mr. Modi’s government achieved another goal written into his party’s manifesto by stripping the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir of its autonomy, increasing central government control over the territory, which Pakistan also claims.

Many in the B.J.P. say they believe that Muslims and other minorities in India, including Christians, have been given a special status that has set them apart from their Hindu peers, creating a nation with a tiered structure that they would like to flatten. Hindu temples, for example, are controlled by the government, while Christians and Muslims control their own churches and mosques.

Ahead of the verdict, schools were shut and 4,000 security officers were deployed to the area in case of sectarian violence. Rallies were banned, shops barred from selling kerosene and people prevented from collecting bricks or stones.