Hindu monks, activists rally in New Delhi demanding Ayodhya temple

The Hindu hard-liners are building pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to move quickly on the issue. (AP)
Updated 09 December 2018

Hindu monks, activists rally in New Delhi demanding Ayodhya temple

  • The calls for a new temple in the northern town of Ayodhya come ahead of an election that must be held by May 2019, when Modi will seek a second term
  • Ahead of Sunday’s rally, police stepped up security, with organizers expecting hundreds of thousands to participate

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Hindu monks and activists linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party gathered in the Indian capital New Delhi on Sunday to urge the government to build a temple at the ruins of a 16th century mosque.
The calls for a new temple in the northern town of Ayodhya come ahead of an election that must be held by May 2019, when Modi will seek a second term.
Most analysts expect his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to fare far less well than it did in 2014, and critics often accuse the party of using communal issues to whip up support.
For the past three decades, the BJP and Hindu outfits associated with it have resurrected the Ayodhya controversy before elections, stoking tensions between Hindus and a Muslim minority who make up 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.
In 1992 a militant Hindu mob tore down the centuries-old mosque in Ayodhya, triggering riots that killed about 2,000 people across India in one of the worst outbreaks of communal violence since Partition in 1947.
Most Hindus believe the warrior-god Ram was born in Ayodhya, and Hindu groups insist that there was a temple there before a mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528.
Hindu monks want the government to introduce a legislation to pave the way for a temple, said Sharad Sharma, spokesman for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or the World Hindu Council, a group that has close ties with the BJP.
“It’s an issue of faith for millions of Hindus who cannot endlessly wait for a temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram,” he said.
Both Hindu and Muslim groups have petitioned the Supreme Court to help resolve the issue. The top court has sought more time to give its verdict.
The BJP and VHP and their parent movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have asked the government to issue an executive order to build a temple, bypassing the Supreme Court.
Late last month, tens of thousands of Hindu seers, their followers and political activists had gathered in Ayodhya to press for their demand for a temple.
Ahead of Sunday’s rally, police stepped up security, with organizers expecting hundreds of thousands to participate.
Uttar Pradesh, the state where Ayodha is located, has suffered repeated outbreaks of communal violence since Yogi Adityanath, a BJP hard-liner seen as a potential successor to Modi, became chief minister last year.
Earlier this month, a senior police officer and another man were killed in violent protests in the state over reports that a cow, an animal sacred in Hindu culture, had been slaughtered.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.