Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the dedication ceremony of a large new temple in honor of the Hindu god Rama. Its construction is the fulfillment of an election promise made by his political party over thirty years ago. The place where it was built is opposed by Muslims.
In an event in Ayodhya in the northern part India Thousands of invited guests took part, including leading film stars, reported the BBC, reporting on the event. The ceremony was boycotted by some of the opposition, who said Modi was using the temple for political purposes. The Indian prime minister’s political rivals maintain that the ruling party will seek votes on behalf of the temple in a country where 80 percent of the population are Hindus.
Critics also accuse the government of exaggerating the celebration of a religious holiday in a country that is secular under its constitution. The cost of building the temple was estimated at $217 million.
Construction, which began in 2020, has sparked social and political controversy because the temple was built on the site of a 16th-century mosque destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992. This triggered nationwide riots in which two thousand people, mainly Muslims, died.
The legal battle regarding the construction of the temple ended in 2019 when Supreme Court of India issued a decision to allow its construction on the condition that the Muslims receive another plot of land to build a mosque.
The topic of the temple inauguration was widely discussed in India, both in all pro-government media and on the Internet. Music platforms were filled with songs urging citizens to celebrate the occasion. There are new TV shows and movies about Rama. Most often, Rama appeared in the media in the company of Prime Minister Modi.
Maulana Badshah Khan, 65, told CNN that he believed the celebrations were a clear signal of the marginalization of Muslims in the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “The wounds of the destruction of the Babri mosque will always remain,” Khan said, adding: “The temple (of Ram) has symbolic value, showing Muslims their place in the new India.”
Muslims, a minority in India (about 14% of the 1.42 billion population), fear a repeat of sectarian violence like more than 30 years ago, when Hindu nationalists destroyed a 16th-century mosque.
Prime Minister for 10 years
Modi came to power in 2014 promising to reform the country’s economy and usher in a new era of development, but at the same time he strongly pushed the ideology that India should become a “country of Hindus.”
One of Modi’s key promises to voters 30 years ago was to build a Rama temple on the site of a destroyed mosque. “Today it gives him hope of winning the elections this year,” writes CNN.
Main photo source: Reuters