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Ayodhya / Ram-Mandir / Babri Masjid

Tensions remain high in the area of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, where activists demand that the government allow construction of a temple to begin. Although construction has been postponed, the potential for unrest continues. Due to the high risk of violence, U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid travel to Ayodhya or the surrounding areas.

Narendra Modi, later Chief Minister of Gujarat, was entrusted with the responsibility of organising two crucial national events also - the Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra (a very long march) of Mr Advani and a similar march from Kanyakumari (the southern most part of India) to the troubled Kashmir in north. at Ayodhya, a mosque demolition sparked bloody riots between Hindus and Muslims. Hindu extremists destroyed the 16th century Babri mosque, saying it was built by destroying a temple at the birthplace of their god-king Rama. They said want to rebuild the temple. The demolition triggered nationwide riots that left about 2,000 people dead, the bloodiest in India since the 1947 partition with Pakistan. According to Modi's official profile " Most historians have attributed the coming of the BJP to power at New Delhi in 1998 to these two highly successful events, the nitty-gritty of which was handled by Narendra Modi."

Ayodhya, in Northern lndia, is alleged to have been the birthplace of the god Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic poem the Ramayana. Factual questions about the actual lives of particular divine personages have not been a concern for most Hindus. Historical interest in the relation between symbol and occurrence, doctrinal truth and falsehood, is in many respects a Western phenomenon. Most Hindus take it for granted that Rama and Krishna — both regarded as incarnations of the high god Vishnu - once lived on earth. Moreover, the distinction between the human and the divine is not as radical and sharp as in Western monotheisms. The question is about not a God "beyond the world" but the sacred and divine within it.

The Hindutva movement promote a narrowly Hindu view of Indian civilization. According to Hindu tradition, two empires only existed in the most ancient times, of which the capitals were Ayodhya or Oude, and Pratishthana or Vitora. The kings of these cities, who are respectively denominated children of the Sun and of the Moon, are supposed to have been the lineal descendants of Satyavrata, the seventh Msnu, durin whose life all living creatures, with the exception of himself and his fsmily, were destroyed by a general deluge. Another kingdom was afterward established at Madha or Bahar, by Jurasaudha, appointed governor of the province by a soversign of the Lunar race.

The kings of Ayodhya appear to have conquered the Deccan, and to have introduced the Brabminical faith and laws into the southern part of the peninsula. Such, at least, appears to be the meaning of the Ramayana, according to which, Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, and the son of the king of Ayodhya, penetrates to the extremity of the peninsula, and conquers. This is in accordance with all the traditions of the peninsula, which recognise a period when the inhabitants were not Hindus. There are no means of ascertaining whether these conquests by the monarchs of Ayodhya were permanent; but in the time of Arrian and Pliny, the Brahminical faith prevailed in the southern part of the peninsula, since all the principal palaces mentioned by these writers have Sanscrit names.

For centuries the poem has been acted out during long evenings in lndian villages. More recently the Ramayana had been broadcast on national television. In the fall of 1989, neighborhoods all over this huge country were making thousands of bricks and inscribing them with the names of their home states. They were to be sent to Ayodhya for the rebuilding of Rama's temple. Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the fundamentalist religious wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, led the campaign for the temple project. The symbolic destruction of the Babri Masjid was effective as the signal of a new, muscular Hindu nationalism.

Militant Hindus, ignoring historical scholarship and the doubts of moderate religious leaders, say that in 1528 the Mogul Emperor, Babar, built his mosque, the Babri Masjid, right over the spot where Rama was born. They say he destroyed a Hindu temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi, in the process. In India, where lines still often blur between history and legend, reality and myth, or politics and religion, a dispute over sacred ground claimed by Muslims and Hindus is regarded as a powder keg.

In 1986, a court in nearby Faizabad had ordered that the gates of the mosque at Ayodhya be unlocked and its premises made available for Hindu worship. The reason was that it allegedly was standing at the location of an earlier Hindu temple. Fundamentalists were aroused and became active on both sides Decades earlier, on the night of 22-23 December 1945, Hindu idols had been smuggled into the mosque's shrine, and the place had become desecrated for Muslims. Whereas the Hindu cult is practiced with dramatic statues of deities, the Muslim sanctuary is in the full sense iconoclastic.

Hindu fundamentalists had insisted that the mosque be torn down and replaced by a temple. Early in the summer of 1992 two thousand Vishwa Hindu Parishad volunteers began laying a 21-by-9-meter concrete base foundation. When on December 6, 1992, rioters broke through police lines and destroyed the three-story mosque with pickaxes and crowbars, lndia erupted in religious warfare.

Thousands of persons were killed throughout India in the struggle that this controversial project entailed. Fundamentalists in both communities set on each other—destroying shops, burning vehicles, and attacking individuals of the opposite faith. Hundreds were killed and thousands injured. The normally busy, vibrant city of Bombay, an epitome of religious harmony, was transformed into a virtual war zone, with seething hatred and distrust.

In November 2010, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (The World Hindu Council) said it would not allow the construction of a new mosque in Ayodhya at the site of the 16th century mosque razed in 1992, asserting that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram. VHP said it plans to construct a temple dedicated to Ram on the site. VHP's comments followed the Lucknow High Court ruling in September 2010, which divided the site among the three plaintiffs and allowed for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and other affiliated organizations (collectively known as the Sangh Parivar) publicly claimed to respect and tolerate other religious groups; however, the RSS opposed coerced conversions from Hinduism and expressed the view that all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, should adhere to Hindu cultural values, which they claimed were the country's values.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2013 18:55:28 ZULU