5 August 2020   Leave a comment

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the cornerstone for a Hindu shrine in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya. Hindus believe that Ayodhya is the birthplace of the deity Rama. Muslims, however, believe that the first Mughal ruler of India, Babur, built a mosque there in 1528. Others believe that the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb razed a Hindu temple there and built the mosque in 1668. The mosque was destroyed in December 1992 by Hindu nationalists and about 2,000 people were killed in the subsequent riots.

Since that time, the status of the site has been heavily contested by Hindus and Muslims. Muslims are the largest minority in the country and account for about 13% of the Indian population. The Indian constitution is staunchly secularist, but the rise of the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its subsequent dominance in Indian politics, has amplified the strains in Indian society. National Public Radio describes the tensions:

“‘The word ‘Ayodhya’ brings back haunting memories. When the Babri Masjid was demolished, it was when for your next-door neighbors, for your schoolmates, you became a Muslim overnight,’ says author and activist Rana Ayyub, who was 9 years old in 1992 and had to go into hiding amid Hindu-Muslim riots in her native Bombay, now Mumbai. ‘It ripped apart the facade of India being a secular nation, a democratic republic.’

“India’s constitution defines it as a secular republic, but Modi and his BJP have sought to transform the country into a Hindu nation with special rights for its majority faith. In recent years, minority Muslims have increasingly become victims of hate crimes and lynchings.

“A legal battle over the land under the Babri mosque’s ruins spanned more than a century. Last year, India’s Supreme Court handed over the disputed 2.77-acre patch of land to the Hindu litigants in a unanimous verdict. The court also ordered 5 acres of land to be allocated to Muslims, at a separate location in Ayodhya.”

Many Hindus all over the world celebrated the laying of the cornerstone. But some Indians are concerned that the building of the shrine will aggravate social tensions and damage the integrity of the Indian constitution. Those fears resonate with similar fears concerning the stripping of the autonomy of Kashmir last year by India. Kashmir is populated with a majority Muslim population and the region has been a constant source of tension with Pakistan since the independence of the two states in 1947. Over the last year, India has steadily increased its control over the region despite the opposition of the Muslim population.

Proposed Hindu Shrine at Ayodhya

Posted August 5, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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