Tight security for India mosque destruction anniversary

Police in Ayodhya were seen checking vehicles and stopping some passers-by for questioning as they sought to prevent any flare-up in violence. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018
0

Tight security for India mosque destruction anniversary

  • The anniversary of the destruction is always tense with some hard-liners seeking to commemorate the event
  • Many Hindus believe Ayodhya marks the birthplace of the deity Ram, and that the mosque which stood there for 460 years was only built after the destruction of an earlier temple

AYODHYA, INDIA: Some 2,000 baton-wielding Indian police were on duty in the flashpoint city of Ayodhya on Thursday to prevent any clashes around the anniversary of the destruction of a mosque.
Hindu zealots reduced the Babri mosque to rubble in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims, and the site’s future has become a major touchstone issue in Indian politics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014 pledging to construct a temple on the same spot, but the issue remains tied up in the courts.
The anniversary of the destruction is always tense with some hard-liners seeking to commemorate the event, and on Thursday police were taking no chances, standing behind yellow steel barricades, checking vehicles and stopping some passers-by.
With around 1,500 Hindu devotees visiting the city, watchtower guards and security cameras were trained on the ruins of the Babri mosque, which are protected by a high steel fence.
There was no violence but police arrested eight people including a local priest who threatened to set himself on fire.
Many Hindus believe Ayodhya marks the birthplace of the deity Ram, and that the mosque which stood there for 460 years was only built after the destruction of an earlier temple.
Modi, running for a second term in 2019, has faced some disquiet from his core supporters who feel that he has not done enough for the cause of having a temple built.
Uttar Pradesh’s state premier Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand monk who has long campaigned for the temple, has also unveiled plans to build the world’s largest statue in Ayodhya — a 221-meter (725-foot) bronze Ram.
On an average day, a few thousand Hindu devotees visit the makeshift temple that was established after 1992.
Meanwhile, on Thursday dozens of holy men dressed in saffron robes gathered at an auditorium, chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (“Hail Lord Ram“) and pledging to have a temple in place before next year’s anniversary.
Muslim groups held small commemorations of those who lost their lives in 1992.
“All we want is peace and harmony. Muslims and Hindus of Ayodhya have always lived in harmony but it is the politicians who stoke hatred for their electoral gains,” said Mohammed Shahzad, who runs a meat shop in the city.
“The mosque in my neighborhood was attacked during the riots in 1992. Our home was set on fire, we somehow managed to save our lives. We don’t want a repeat of the violence at any cost.”
Kalyani Ubhe, a tourist, said: “A temple must be built here. It is a matter of Hindu faith and devotion. We have a right to pray at the birthplace of Lord Ram.”
This was echoed by Sharad Sharma, the local spokesman for Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a militant right-wing outfit linked to Modi’s BJP that co-organized a rally by tens of thousands of devotees in Ayodhya last Sunday.
Another rally is set to take place in Delhi this Sunday.
“Our Lord Ram is being made to run around the courts for so many years... There is no question about the fact that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram. We want a magnificent temple to be built there,” Sharma said.
“Our patience is running out. We can’t wait indefinitely for something which is our right. It is a question of Hindu identity and faith. We want an ordinance to be brought as the courts have been sitting on this matter for decades,” he said.
“Once a grand temple is built here, tens of thousands of devotees will come.”


UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

Updated 14 min 4 sec ago
0

UN adopts global migration pact rejected by US and others

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration
  • Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out

MARRAKESH, Morocco: The United Nations on Monday adopted a deal aimed at improving the way the world copes with rising migration, but almost 30 countries stayed away from the ceremony in Morocco.

The pact, meant to foster cooperation on migration, was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the US, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting on Monday.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out. Six more, among them Israel and Bulgaria, are debating whether to quit, a UN spokesman said after the pact was adopted. He did not say whether the rest of the countries absent from the conference in Marrakesh might also pull out.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the UN began work on the non-binding pact after more than 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

But President Donald Trump’s administration said the global approach to the issue was not compatible with US sovereignty.

Since July, the accord, which addresses issues such as how to protect migrants, integrate them and send them home, has been criticized by mostly right-wing European politicians who say it could increase immigration from African and Arab countries.

Angela Merkel, accused by critics of worsening the refugee crisis by opening Germany’s borders in 2015, said cooperation was the only answer to tackle the world’s problems.

“The pact is worth fighting for,” the German chancellor, one of around a dozen national leaders in Marrakesh, told the forum. “It’s about time that we finally tackle migration together.”

Without naming Trump or his “America First” stance, she said multilateralism was the way “to make the world a better place.” 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed nations needed migration.

“In the many places where fertility is declining and life expectancy is rising, economies will stagnate and people will suffer without migration,” he said in his opening address.

On Sunday, Chile withdraw from the pact, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel saw the biggest party in his coalition quit in a dispute over the accord.

In November, Austria’s right-wing government, which holds the EU presidency, said it would withdraw, saying the pact would blur the line between legal and illegal migration.

Australia said it would not sign up to a deal it said would compromise its hard-line immigration policy.