Hindu activists demolishing the Babri mosque (Image: Douglas E. Curran/AFP)Hindu activists demolishing the Babri mosque (Image: Douglas E. Curran/AFP)

Ayodhya: Ram, Allah and the Politicians

As the 2019 Indian elections loom, the case of Ram Mandir (Temple) is back on the agendas of the politicians – again. Today, some 100,000 Hindus are gathered at Ayodhya, and are demanding that Supreme Court grant permission to build a Ram Temple on the grounds where Babri Masjid once stood. Many senior political leaders including Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena, and of other right wing nationalist parties such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are present on the holy ground as claimed by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The area, while a religiously disputed area is important to the politicians:

Ayodhya lies in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. The state owing to its population size sends one of the highest number of MPs (Member of Parliaments) to the Parliament of India – a majority is important to those aspiring to win the elections, and thereby intending to rule the nation for the next five years. In 2014, BJP (India’s ruling party) with the slogan #MandirWahinBanayenge (we will build the temple there) led to win 71 of the 80 contested seats to the Parliament.

The party won with a promise to build a temple on the disputed land, however, a Supreme Court ruling is yet to be delivered, and whether a temple or a mosque will be built is still dangling in the air. Opposing party members are criticising the current government on their inability to build the temple and are going on to demand the Supreme Court deliver a judgement in favour of the Hindus – all to sway the voters to their base.

Why is Ayodhya disputed? 

The Ramayana, a Hindu scripture maintains the birthplace of Hindu king-god Rama to be Ayodhya. In the 16th century, Babur, India’s first Mughal emperor commissioned a mosque in Ayodhya. Hindus believe that the spot where the mosque was built is the exact birthplace of Lord Rama, a claim which was backed by the Archaelogical Survey of India, though thorough excavations were yet to be done. The area has been under dispute since. Tensions escalated in 1992 when on the 6th of December Hindu activists demolished the mosque with axes and hammers – the entire structure was razed within a matter of a few hours.

The demolition triggered a national crisis – some 2,000 lives (mainly Muslims) were lost in Hindu-Muslim clashes across the nation, chiefly in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Since then, the government acquired the disputed land and the surrounding areas. A trial is ongoing at the Supreme Court of India to determine which religion has the right over the land.

However, the dispute has become more of a political tool  – politicians continue to sway the Hindu majority of the nation with promises of a temple, and 2019 is looking no different.

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