Ayodhya temple talk fanning polarization in India

Indian Hindu hardliners participate in a rally calling for the construction of a temple on the site of the demolished 16th century Babri mosque, located in Ayodhya, in New Delhi on Dec. 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Ayodhya temple talk fanning polarization in India

  • Ayodhya has been the scene of deadly riots and communal violence between Hindus and Muslims after a mob tore down a mosque in 1992
  • The contested site is under the control of the Supreme Court, which is to examine a 2010 ruling that divided it into three parts

NEW DELHI: Talk of building a Hindu temple at a disputed religious site is a deliberate attempt to create “communal polarization,” India’s main opposition has warned.

The eastern city of Ayodhya has been the scene of deadly riots and communal violence between Hindus and Muslims after a mob tore down a mosque in 1992, saying there was a temple on the site beforehand.

Tens of thousands of Hindus, including senior government-linked figures, converged at Ayodhya on Sunday to demand the construction of a temple at the site.

But the opposition Congress accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its parent movement the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of stoking tensions ahead of elections next year.

“Look at the timing,” Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha told Arab News, “the BJP always raises this polarizing issue before a major election. The matter is coming up before the Supreme Court and there is an attempt by the RSS and other organizations to build pressure before that.”

The contested site is under the control of the Supreme Court, which is to examine a 2010 ruling that divided it into three parts. One part was given to Muslims and two parts to Hindus.

“The BJP government has not achieved much in the last four-and -a-half years. All sections of society, ranging from farmers, businessmen to marginalized communities, are in distress. By raising the temple issue the BJP and its paternal organization wants to hide their failure. There is an attempt to deliberately create a communal polarization in the country,” said Jha.

The head of the RSS, Suresh Joshi, told Sunday’s rally there should be a law for a temple to be built at the site and that the BJP should deliver on its commitment.

“Every individual and organization has the democratic right to raise issues of public concern,” BJP spokesman Sudesh Verma said.

“The RSS is well within its rights to make such a demand, more so when a party committed to the construction of a grand temple at the site of the makeshift temple in Ayodhya is in power at the center.”

A New Delhi-based political analyst, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, said the BJP was spoiling for a fight.

“The party wants to use the temple issue as a hot topic and exploit the religious sentiments of the people for political gains,” he told Arab News. “Ayodhya remains an emotional issue for people in India. In the next elections the BJP will mix the temple issue with other issues and play it out to garner votes. The build-up has already started.”


North Korea confirms leader Kim Jong Un on train to summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from a train as he departs for a summit in Hanoi, in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 23, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 2 min 48 sec ago
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North Korea confirms leader Kim Jong Un on train to summit

DANDONG, China: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un was on a train Sunday to Vietnam for his second summit with President Donald Trump, state media confirmed.
Kim was accompanied by Kim Yong Chol, who has been a key negotiator in talks with the US, and Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s sister, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported. TV footage and photos distributed by the North’s state-run news agency showed Kim inspecting a guard of honor at the Pyongyang station before waving from the train.
Late Saturday, an Associated Press reporter saw a green-and-yellow train similar to one used in the past by Kim cross into the Chinese border city of Dandong via a bridge.
The Trump-Kim meeting is slated for Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi.
Their first summit last June in Singapore ended without substantive agreements on the North’s nuclear disarmament and triggered a months-long stalemate in negotiations as Washington and Pyongyang struggled with the sequencing of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and the removal of US-led sanctions against the North.
Kim’s overseas travel plans are routinely kept secret. It could take more than two days for the train to travel thousands of kilometers (miles) through China to Vietnam.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that Kim would pay an official goodwill visit to the country “in the coming days” in response to an invitation by President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the general secretary of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party.
In his upcoming meeting with Trump, experts say Kim will seek a US commitment for improved bilateral relations and partial sanctions relief while trying to minimize any concessions on his nuclear facilities and weapons.
While Kim wants to leverage his nuclear and missile program for economic and security benefits, there continue to be doubts on whether he’s ready to fully deal away an arsenal that he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Last year, North Korea suspended its nuclear and long-range missile tests and unilaterally dismantled its nuclear testing ground and parts of a rocket launch facility without the presence of outside experts, but none of those steps were seen as meaningful cutbacks to the North’s weapons capability.
While North Korea has repeatedly demanded that the United States take corresponding measures, including sanctions relief, Washington has called for more concrete steps from Pyongyang toward denuclearization.
Hanoi has been gearing up for the summit with beefed-up security. Officials say the colonial-era Government Guest House in central Hanoi is expected to be the venue for the Trump-Kim meeting, with the nearby Metropole Hotel as a backup. Streets around the two places have been beautified with flowers and the flags of North Korea, the USand Vietnam.
Workers were also putting final touches on the International Media Center. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry says some 2,600 members of the foreign press have registered for the event.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has announced a traffic ban along Kim’s possible arrival route.
The Communist Party’s mouthpiece Nhan Dan newspaper quoted the Department of Roads as saying the ban will first apply to trucks 10 tons or bigger, and vehicles with nine seats or more on the 170-kilometer (105-mile) stretch of Highway One from Dong Dang, the border town with China, to Hanoi from 7 p.m. Monday to 2 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a complete ban Tuesday on all vehicles from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The People’s Committee in Lang Son province, where the Dong Dang railway station is located, issued a statement Friday instructing the road operator to clean the highway stretch and suspend road works, among other things, on Feb. 24-28 as “a political task.”