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.”


Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shouts “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor,” during the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 59 min 51 sec ago

Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

  • Ritual-bound, centuries-old ceremony takes places at Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Heads of state and officials from Japan and 180 countries among the attendees

TOKYO: It was a ceremony similar to coronations used by monarchs worldwide, but combining the historical and the spiritual with modernity. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22.
Purple curtains were drawn back to reveal Naruhito, 59, and Empress Masako, 55, standing before their imperial thrones as the enthronement ceremony began.
Wearing a dark orange robe, similar to that worn by his father Akihito at his own enthronement in 1990, Naruhito proclaimed his ascension from a 6.5 meter-high, canopied “Takamikura” throne.
Through the centuries-old ceremony, Naruhito declared himself Japan’s 126th emperor and vowed to “stand with the people” before roughly 2,000 guests, including heads of state and officials from Japan and more than 180 countries. Among the attendees were Japanese royal family members also wearing traditional robes.
In his congratulatory message to the emperor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that the people of Japan would “respect (his) highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people.” He then stood before Naruhito’s throne, bowed and raised his hands three times, shouting “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor.”
Saudi Arabia was represented by Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Japanese people.Saudi Ambassador to Japan Naif bin Marzouq Al-Fahadi, and other Saudi officials, were also present.

Japan’s Princess Mako attended the enthronement ceremony. (AFP)


The enthronement ceremony is a part of a succession of rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne, after Akihito became the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.
As Naruhito ascended the throne, boxes containing items of imperial regalia, including an imperial sword and jewel, were presented to him.
“Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law, I now … proclaim my enthronement to those at home and abroad,” the Japan Times newspaper quoted Naruhito as declaring.
“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state, and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them.” An imperial procession that was to take place after the ceremony was postponed after Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo earlier this month. On Nov. 10, the emperor and empress will take part in a procession through central Tokyo to the Akasaka Imperial Residence.
To mark the enthronement, the government has granted pardons to more than half a million people found guilty of petty crimes such as traffic violations.
In an article for Arab News, Shihoko Goto, deputy director for geoeconomics at the Asia Program of the US think tank the Wilson Center, asked a question she believes will be echoed by many in Japan: “Can the country carry on its historical legacy while embracing the opportunities of the 21st century? “The new imperial couple is likely to want to further Emperor Akihito’s legacy as a conduit for reconciliation.”