Ram temple ‘an affront to Indian Muslims’, says Foreign Office

Published January 23, 2024
Ayodhya: A view of the controversial Ram temple, inaugurated on Monday by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, embodying the triumph of his muscular Hindu nationalist politics.—AFP
Ayodhya: A view of the controversial Ram temple, inaugurated on Monday by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, embodying the triumph of his muscular Hindu nationalist politics.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi heralded the inauguration of a temple in Ayodhya as a “new era” for India on Monday, Pakistan condemned the grand celebrations and described it as a “symbol of growing majoritarianism and an affront to the Muslim community in India”.

At a grand event attended by some seven thousand guests, Mr Modi consecrated the idol of Lord Ram at the new temple built on the site where the Babri Masjid stood for centuries before it was demolished by a Hindutva mob in 1992.

The developments of the last 31 years in India, leading to today’s consecration ceremony, are “indicative of growing majoritarianism in India”, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

“These constitute an important facet of the ongoing efforts for social, economic and political marginalisation of the Indian Muslims”.

Modi heralds temple’s inauguration as a ‘new era’ for India; Pakistan says ‘majoritarian actions’ have put future of secularism in peril

The statement added that the inauguration “symbolises the rise of Hindu nationalism” and reflects the political and religious aspirations of BJP and its supporters.

“The construction of the temple on such a historically disputed site underscores the ongoing transformation in India’s religious and cultural landscape, heavily influenced by the BJP’s ideology.”

The statement also expressed concerns over the state of minorities in India, adding that the inauguration has “intensified concerns about the treatment of Muslims in India”.

It said the reports of discrimination and violence against Muslims are linked with Hindu nationalism and “raises significant questions about the future of secularism and minority rights in India”.

Calling the new temple “a blot on the face of India’s democracy”, the FO expressed concerns over the future of other mosques in the country, including the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Eidgah Mosque in Mathura that are also facing threats of desecration and destruction.

The statement called on Delhi to ensure the safety and security of its religious minorities and their holy places.

It also urged the international community, including the UN, to take notice of the increasing Islamophobia, hate speech, and hate crimes in India and take action to protect Islamic heritage sites.

Divisions amid calls for unity

In Ayodhya, Mr Modi participated in the consecration ceremony with Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fountainhead of Hindutva groups that razed the Babri Masjid to build the temple at the site.

The ceremony began at 12:20pm, followed by Mr Modi addressing the gathering, which included prominent celebrities, cricket and other notable personalities, at the venue.

He said Ram had arrived after centuries in Ayodhya, implying a history of pre-colonial Muslim rule when Hindutva leaders say India was enslaved by foreigners.

Mr Bhagwat, the RSS chief, called for unity to usher Ram Rajya, a mythical idea of harmonious living.

However, his call sharply contrasted with the criticism levelled by the opposition parties over turning the inauguration into a grand spectacle and the “state-sponsored assault” on the pan-India peace march headed by Congress’ Rahul Gandhi in the BJP-ruled Assam state.

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav extended support to Mr Gandhi and criticised the BJP government for not letting him offer prayers at a local temple in Guwahati, the largest city in the northeastern state.

Sachin Pilot, a crucial leader for the Congress in Rajasthan, said it was most unfortunate that a yatra [march] seeking to send the message of peace, harmony, and unity is “under attack by the ruling dispensation in Assam”.

“This shows two things,” Mr. Pilot said. “One, fear of the massive response the yatra has received; second, it shows a lot of insecurity. You can’t handle opposition leaders taking out a yatra, which is a benign meet-and-greet event.”

The Congress leader also opposed the invitations to visit the temple in Ayodhya. “One must not mix religion and politics. Lord Ram is not an event.”

Kerala’s communist Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the people to reaffirm their commitment to the secular credentials of the nation and its Constitution by declining to be a part of the inauguration of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.

In his message, released soon after the temple’s inauguration at Ayodhya, Mr Vijayan expressed his concern that, of late, the line that demarcates religion and State seemed to be getting thinner.

It has been built at an estimated cost of $240 million, mainly “sourced from public donations”, according to the officials.

Fervour and fear

In the lead-up to the inauguration, excitement reached a fever pitch, with thousands of Hindu believers dancing in packed streets of Ayodhya, AFP reported.

Vijay Kumar, 18, who reached the town after walking and hitchhiking for four days, told AFP that he just wished to see the temple before leaving.

About 2,500 musicians performed on over 100 stages for the crowds of pilgrims around the elaborate temple.

The 140km between the town and Uttar Pradesh state capital Lucknow was adorned with a stream of billboards of blue-skinned Ram with bow and arrow — as well as of Modi and the region’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Our correspondent in New Delhi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2024

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