Nepal PM angers India with Hindu deity claim

Bharatiya Janata Party activists hold a protest in Kolkata on Wednesday against the West Bengal state government, demanding a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into the death of BJP leader Debendra Nath Roy. (AFP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Nepal PM angers India with Hindu deity claim

  • Anger erupts after leader accuses New Delhi of ‘cultural encroachment’

NEW DELHI: A claim by Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli that the disputed religious site of Ayodhya was in Nepal, not India, and that the Hindu deity Lord Ram was Nepalese, has inflamed tensions between the neighboring countries.

Oli also accused India of “cultural encroachment” in its use of the religious site, reigniting a feud over the issue that goes back centuries.

“Ram was not Indian, but Nepali. Nepal has become a victim of cultural encroachment and its history has been manipulated,” Oli said while marking the holiday of Bhanu Jayanti at his residence in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital.

This year’s Bhanu Jayanti marks the 206th birthday of renowned Nepalese poet Bhanubhakta Acharya, who translated the Ramayana, the Hindu epic, from Sanskrit into the Nepali language. Nepal, like India, is dominated by a single belief system, with 81.3 percent of its population identifying as Hindu.

However, 80 percent of the Indian population is also Hindu and claim that Ayodhya, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram.

But on Monday Oli said India had created a “fake” Ayodhya, and that it was actually “located west of Birgunj in Nepal.”

He said: “India has created a disputed Ayodhya, a fake Ayodhya. Lord Ram’s kingdom was not in Uttar Pradesh but in Nepal, near Balmiki Ashram.”

Officials from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condemned the claims. Spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal told Arab News that the Nepalese premier is a “communist” and is “playing the Chinese game.”

He said: “Communists in Nepal will be rejected by the masses in the same way they have been in India, even as left-wing parties in India played with people’s faith.”

The BJP is a predominantly Hindu party that has gained huge political and electoral power in India. It has staged a long-term campaign to build a temple for Lord Ram at the disputed religious site in Ayodhya.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the BJP, then only a marginal political power, launched a divisive political strategy to build a temple on the site of the 16th-century Babri Mosque. The party and other Hindu organizations claimed the mosque was built by Babur, the first Mughal emperor, following the demolition of a temple which allegedly marked the site of Ram’s birth.

The campaign resulted in the demolition of the mosque by Hindu activists in 1992, leading to religious violence across the country, which claimed hundreds of lives. Mumbai witnessed one of the worst religious riots in its history.

The matter went to court and after several years, the Supreme Court, in a controversial judgment in November last year, awarded the disputed territory to a Hindu trust and gave Muslim petitioners five acres of land in a separate place in Ayodhya to construct a building of their choice.

The World Hindu Organization, an ally of the BJP and a prominent group which mobilized people for the Ram temple campaign in Ayodhya, said that by claiming that Ayodhya was in Nepal, Oli was hurting the religious traditions of the two countries.

“This is an attempt to hurt the ancient religious bonding and feelings between Nepal and India,” Sharad Sharma, the group’s spokesperson, told Arab News.

Dhirendra K. Jha, journalist and author of the investigative book “Ayodhya — The Dark Night,” said that India’s claims were nothing but a “myth.”

He said: “The story of Ram is a myth and not based on any historical evidence. And you cannot prove that he was born in Ayodhya, which is located in Uttar Pradesh.”

He added that Oli’s claim was part of the “myth-making” process, as there were “varied stories about Ram.”

“The entire process of myth-making is something used by different communities in different points of history. That’s why there are so many varied stories about Ram. You also have examples of several birthplaces of Ram in terms of belief. Nepal’s PM is talking about one such myth,” Jha said.

He added that the latest controversy is a sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries.

“In normal times, these statements by Oli would not have attracted attention. But now the relationship between India and Nepal is not good, that’s why it’s being taken seriously. The statement would hurt the BJP because it has grown as an all-India party by using Ram and Ayodhya as symbols,” Jha said.

Ties between India and Nepal have been strained since November last year when New Delhi published a new political map claiming disputed territory as its own.

The crisis between the two neighbors — who share more than 1,800 km of border territory — reached a peak on May 8 when New Delhi announced the inauguration of a Himalayan road link which passes through the disputed area of Kalapani.

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”