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

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.”


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 13 min 22 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.