Hindu-Muslim conflict brews in Ayodhya

Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council stand on blocks prepared for making a new temple as they gather for a rally to demand the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, India, on Nov.25, 2018. (AP Photo)
Updated 25 November 2018
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Hindu-Muslim conflict brews in Ayodhya

  • Hindu activists gathered in Ayoihya demanding the construction of a temple at the site where the Babri Mosque was demolished by a mob in 1992
  • The rally comes ahead of a visit to the site by radical Hindu leader Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the fringe Hindu organization Shiv Sena

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of right-wing Hindu activists gathered in the Indian city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state on Sunday demanding the construction of a Hindu temple at the site where the Babri Mosque was demolished by a mob in 1992.

The rally was organized by the World Hindu Congress (VHP), an affiliate of the ultra-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the paternal party of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The VHP described it as “one of the largest congregations of saints and supporters of the temple since 1992.” That year, a large Hindu mob destroyed the 16th-century Babri Mosque, which was built by the first Mughal ruler Babur. 

Right-wing Hindu parties claim that the mosque was built where  deity Ram was born.

“More than 200,000 people gathered at Ayodhya to press for their demands,” local journalist Nitesh Singh told Arab News.

VHP Vice President Champat Rai told the crowd: “We’ve gathered here to remind the intellectuals of this country that our quest for a temple didn’t end with the demolition of the mosque in 1992. The fire lit at that time is still burning in our hearts.”

The rally comes ahead of a visit to the site by radical Hindu leader Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the fringe Hindu organization Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP in Maharashtra state.

“A temple has to be built,” said Thackeray at a press conference on Sunday. “The BJP is very powerful, and if they don’t build a temple they’ll cease to be in power.” 

To curb pressure from its allies, the BJP pledged to build a 221-meter-tall statue of Ram, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister announced just hours before the rally.

“We were expecting India’s Supreme Court to decide on the issue sooner, but it has deferred the hearing until January,” said Rakesh Tripathi, a BJP spokesman in Uttar Pradesh. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

eeMost of the 5,000 Muslims living in Ayodhya, which has 46,000 inhabitants, have left the city for fear of violence.

“This minority doesn’t trust the government,” Hajji Asad, a counsellor in Ayodhya, told Arab News. “Ayodhya has become a laboratory for Hindu extremism. The BJP has only one agenda: Building the temple and evoking Muslim-Hindu strife,” he said.

“India is staring at an economic crisis. Unemployment and corruption are on the rise, yet the BJP fails to address these pressing issues, instead polarizing the masses in the name of religion.”

Ayodhya’s Deputy Police Inspector-General Omkar Singh refused to comment to Arab News about the Muslim exodus.

Abdul Jabbar, an advocate in the city, said: “Why has the BJP not mentioned the temple in four years? Why now, with elections around the corner? The BJP’s main concern is victory in 2019.”

Rakesh Tripathi, a BJP official in Uttar Pradesh, told Arab News that Ayodhya “doesn’t have a history of communal conflict.” 

He said: “Even after the demolition of the Babri mosque, there was no Hindu-Muslim conflict. Rumors are being spread to give a false impression of what’s happening in the area.”

The BJP is standing by its pledge to build a temple, he said, adding that the Supreme Court “is taking undue time in deciding on the case, provoking unrest among Hindu residents, hence the rally.” 

Apoorvanand, a political analyst and professor at Delhi University, said the temple had never disappeared from the BJP’s agenda.

The party “has steadfastly worked on its polarizing agenda over the past four years,” he told Arab News, adding that it has “succeeded in altering the political discourse” by politicizing Hindus.

He said: “Never before have minorities felt so alienated. Nationalism, not development, has always dominated the BJP’s agenda.”


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.