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.”


French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

Updated 18 min ago

French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

  • President Emmanuel Macron: Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country
  • French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom

PARIS: French police on Monday launched a series of raids targeting extremist networks three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The operation came a day after tens of thousands of people took part in rallies countrywide to honor history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.

Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said “dozens” of individuals were being probed for suspected radicalization.

While they were “not necessarily linked” to Paty’s killing, the government aimed to send a message that there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic,” he added.

Darmanin said the government would also tighten the noose on NGOs with suspected links to extremist networks.

“Fear is about to change sides,” President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of key ministers Sunday to discuss a response to the attack.

“Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country,” he said.

Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Paris.

A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, an 18-year-old Chechen man Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.

The grisly killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Paty had shown his civics class one of the controversial cartoons.

According to his school, Paty had given Muslim children the option to leave the classroom before he showed the cartoon in a lesson on free speech, saying he did not want their feelings hurt.

The lesson sparked a furor nonetheless and Paty and his school received threats.

Eleven people are being held over his murder, including a known radical and the father of one of Paty’s pupils, who had launched an online campaign against the teacher.

Darmanin accused the two men of having issued a “fatwa” against Paty, using the term for an edict that was famously used to describe the 1989 death sentence handed down against writer Salman Rushdie by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Anzorov’s family arrived in France from the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya when he was six.

Locals in the Normandy town of Evreux where he lived described him as a loner who had become increasingly religious in recent years.

Police are trying to establish whether he acted alone.

Four members of his family are being held for questioning.

In scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, when over a million people marched through Paris to defend press freedom, people again gathered at the central Place de la Republique on Sunday to express their horror over Paty’s death.

Some in the crowd chanted “I am Samuel,” echoing the 2015 “I am Charlie” rallying call for free speech.

French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom.

The government has vowed to step up security at schools when pupils return after half-term.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who laid a wreath outside Paty’s school on Monday, called for “wartime legislation” to combat the terror threat.

Le Pen, who has announced she will make a third bid for the French presidency in 2022, called for an “immediate” moratorium on immigration and for all foreigners on terror watchlists to be deported.

Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings.

The magazine republished the cartoons in the run-up to the trial, and last month a young Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the publication’s old office.