01/05/2024, 19.03
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Ayodhya, Ram temple, and the threats by fake Muslims

Two Hindus who pretended to be Muslims were detained by Indian special forces after posting messages announcing attacks at the disputed holy site in Uttar Pradesh where Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate a new Hindu temple on 22 January. Their social media profiles show links to the Bharatiya Janata Party. For the bishop of Lucknow, it is a serious thing “to fuel further tensions in a society already polarised along religious lines.” Meanwhile, in Ayodhya, preparations are underway to consecrate the prime minister rather than the holy place.

Ayodhya (AsiaNews) – Two men pretending to be Muslims were arrested last Wednesday after they threatened to kill Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister and blow up the Ram temple in Ayodhya, a sacred city for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.

Omprakash Mishra and Tahar Singh, both residents of Gonda district, were arrested in Lucknow, a city in Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the intervention of special forces.

Threats were sent to the chief minister and the head of the special forces from two email accounts created using the fake names of Alam Ansari Khan and Zubair Khan.

According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Pramesh Kumar Shukla, who is leading the investigation, the two acted on the instructions of a third man, Devendra Tiwari, now on the run.

Tiwari, who runs two nonprofits and heads the Indian Institute of Paramedical Sciences, where both Misha and Singh worked, posted threats on Twitter, attracting the attention of the police.

"The threats to the chief minister and to the Ram temple are serious things," said Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow, speaking to AsiaNews.

"Some elements want to be in the limelight, but the malicious act of using false names, Muslim in this case, is meant to fuel further tensions in a society already polarised along religious lines,” the prelate lamented, adding that “It is necessary to take strict measures against the culprits so that such things do not happen again.”

An investigation by the Indian digital news publication Scroll has highlighted the growing practice by some who pretend to be Muslim and publish provocative posts on social media.

The social media accounts of Tiwari, Misha and Singh clearly show their ties to representatives of the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The city of Ayodhya has, however, been at the centre of religious tensions and controversies for decades; in 1992, a Hindu demonstration led to the destruction of the Babri mosque, which according to Hindu ultranationalist groups stood on the remains of an ancient Hindu temple.

Over the years, violent outbreaks and terrorist attacks have continued, until the Supreme Court awarded the site to Hindus in 2019, providing, however, for the construction of a mosque elsewhere.

In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of a new temple at the site believed to be the birthplace of the god Rama, which will be officially inaugurated this coming 22 January after a week of religious activities.

In 2021, a viewing point was created so that anyone could admire the work’s progress. But among the most extremist Hindu groups that adhere to Hindutva ideology, many have expressed opposition to the project.

On social media, many have pointed to the involvement of Muslim craftsmen in the construction of the holy site, or criticised certain architectural motifs for being too “Islamic”.

The BJP, in particular, has been accused of trying to exploit the inauguration of the Ram temple for political purposes, undermining the religious nature of the ceremony.

“It is us who started the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, but BJP is now behaving like it is the thekedaar [contractor] of the temple,” said Sunil Kumar, the general secretary of one of India’s oldest Hindutva groups, the Hindu Mahasabha, which was instrumental in the destruction of the Babri mosque.

“We are delighted that the temple will finally be inaugurated but the BJP alone should not get credit for that,” he added.

In the past, several Hindu leaders had stressed that the temple is a historic place, not a branch office of the BJP, which has been slammed for politicising the whole thing.

For its part, the Hindu Mahasabha announced that it will not attend the temple’s inauguration ceremony.

Meanwhile, on 30 December, during a visit to the site, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced infrastructure projects worth US$ 1.3 billion in Ayodhya over the coming years.

India’s next general election is set for this spring, and Modi could win a third term. The temple’s inauguration on 22 January thus seems more like Modi’s own consecration as India’s political (and religious) leader than that of a holy site.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)


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See also
BJP leader acquittal's in Babri mosque case is a victory of falsehood
01/10/2020 13:58
Ayodhya: Hindu religious leaders will not attend Modi’s temple inauguration
11/01/2024 17:07
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No to more violence over Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid, Hindu leader says
Uttar Pradesh’s nationalist government to build a ‘grand statue’ of Ram in Ayodhya
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