Web Stories Thursday, February 29

“DESTRUCTION”

Modi and the BJP have sought to bring the Hindu faith to the forefront of public life since sweeping to power a decade ago.

Party luminaries regularly condemn earlier eras of Islamic rule over parts of India as a time of “slavery” when their own religion was oppressed, with Ayodhya a key plank in their narrative.

Devout Hindus believe Ram, one of the most revered Hindu gods, was born in the town more than 7,000 years ago, but that the Babri mosque was built over his birthplace by a 16th-century Muslim emperor.

The BJP played an instrumental role in public campaigning that eventually led to the mosque’s demolition.

The destruction presaged the rise of the BJP and Modi as unstoppable electoral juggernauts, displacing the secularist Congress party that had governed India almost without interruption since independence from Britain.

Modi’s consecration of the temple alongside Hindu priests will again project him as a defender of the faith ahead of a general election expected to begin in April.

The BJP is heavily favoured to win a third successive landslide victory, in part because of Modi’s appeals to Hindu nationalism, and opposition parties are boycotting the temple ceremony, saying the event will be a thinly veiled campaign rally.

But many of India’s 200 million Muslims, already anxious in a climate of increased sectarian tensions, have watched the clamour around the temple with trepidation.

Mohammed Shahid, 52, speaking to AFP last month in the town, recounted how his father was burned alive by a mob.

“For me, the temple symbolises nothing but death and destruction”, he said.

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