But in recent years, the notion of Hindutva has faded. In a general election last spring, the BJP took a drubbing. Political analysts say the Congress party did well in part because it took votes from Indians traditionally drawn to political Hinduism.
“India has moved on and the mood has changed, mostly because the political situation is so different,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst at Delhi University. “I think the media has hyped up fears about a violent reaction."
The reaction from some Muslim Indians was a sign of the improved atmosphere in the intervening years.
"The suit of Muslims was liable to be dismissed,” a lawyer for the Babri Masjid Action Committee, a Muslim group, told reporters. “But they are still entitled to one-third of the site. We can say we are partly disappointed, not fully because some of the stand of the Muslims has been vindicated." "Masjid" is a local word for "mosque."
The government prepared for the worst. Some 200,000 security forces were deployed in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. The ability to send a single text message to large groups of people was blocked in order to slow the spread of rumors. Liquor shops and many schools were closed for the day. An appeal for calm, signed by Prime Minister Singh, appeared in several Indian newspapers.
On Thursday a curfew was imposed in the Indian-occupied, Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which has seen surging violence in recent months.
The Babri Mosque was commissioned by Babur, the founder of the Mughal empire, in 1528. For more than a century, a group of Hindus have claimed that Babur built over a Hindu temple. There is no archaeological evidence to support either belief, though the site has long been venerated by Hindus as well as Muslims. Some Hindus also believe that the site is the birthplace of their god Ram.