Hundreds arrested on eve of verdict on holy site in India’s Ayodhya

1 / 6
Rapid Action Force (RPF) personnel patrol on a street in Ayodhya on November 8, 2019, ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. (AFP)
2 / 6
Muslims participate in a special prayer asking to maintain peace and harmony across India ahead of the court verdict of disputed religious site of Ayodhya, in the campus of ancient holy shrine of Hazrat Saiyed Usman Shamme Burhani in Ahmedabad on November 8, 2019. (AFP)
3 / 6
Rapid Action Force (RPF) and Uttar Pradesh Police personnel patrol a street in Ayodhya on November 06, 2019. (AFP)
4 / 6
Activists belonging to 'People for Peace and Justice' stage a candle light vigil urging people belonging to all religious communities to maintain peace and harmony regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi case, in Bangalore on November 7, 2019. (AFP)
5 / 6
Security personnel stand guard on a street in Ayodhya on November 07, 2019, as part of a security measure ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on disputed 16th-century Babri mosque. (AFP)
6 / 6
Rapid Action Force (RPF) personnel stand guard near a security vehicle on a street in Ayodhya on November 8, 2019, ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Hundreds arrested on eve of verdict on holy site in India’s Ayodhya

  • India’s top court said late Friday it will deliver a verdict on Saturday morning on the decades-old spat over the future of a small piece of land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims
  • In recent years, Ayodhya has become a rallying point for Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

NEW DELHI: Fearing unrest, Indian police have reportedly arrested more than 500 people ahead of a Supreme Court ruling due Saturday on a hotly disputed religious site in the holy city of Ayodhya.
India’s top court said late Friday it will deliver a verdict on Saturday morning on the decades-old spat over the future of a small piece of land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims that in the past has sparked deadly religious riots.
Hindu hard-liners want a temple built on the site, currently barricaded off after a 16th-century mosque there was demolished during 1992 riots that left 2,000 people dead.
Hindus believe the mosque was built over the site of the birthplace of their god Ram.
Security was tightened across India in the run-up to the ruling, and Uttar Pradesh state police chief O.P. Singh told the Economic Times that more than 500 arrests had been made.
“The main message to the police force is to maintain peace at any cost,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Most of the suspects were taken into custody while a further 70 people were detained over social media posts, he said — warning that the Internet could be blocked locally if required.
Singh added that police had also identified more than 10,000 people he described as “anti-social.”
A police spokesman declined to comment to AFP.
In recent years, Ayodhya has become a rallying point for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Some senior BJP members are being tried separately over their role in the mosque’s 1992 destruction.
In 2010, a High Court divided the disputed land between Hindu and Muslim groups, but both parties appealed to the Supreme Court, which has since repeatedly put off a verdict.
Media reports say Modi has told ministers to refrain from making comments on the case that could fuel tensions.
For India’s minority Muslims, the dispute and a recent clampdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir have become symbols of the hostility that they say they face from the government.
Hindus make up about 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population, while there are about 200 million Muslims.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 15 November 2019

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.