PM Modi hails ‘dawn of new era’ as work on con­tro­ver­sial tem­ple be­gins

Fiji Sun - - WORLD NEWS -

New Delhi: The In­dian town of Ay­o­d­hya wel­comed Naren­dra Modi for a cer­e­mony mark­ing the start of con­struc­tion of a tem­ple on the site where a mosque was razed to the ground by a Hindu mob 28 years ago.

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party has cam­paigned for years for the tem­ple to be built at the spot con­sid­ered to be the birth­place of the Hindu de­ity Lord Ram.

The is­sue has di­vided In­di­ans, alien­ated Mus­lims, helped pro­pel the BJP to power and thrown its ri­vals into dis­ar­ray. Mr Modi last vis­ited Ay­o­d­hya in 1991.

“When he came, he said he would only re­turn to the city when work had be­gun on the tem­ple, not be­fore,” said Kamesh­war Chau­pal, a priest and mem­ber of the trust re­spon­si­ble for build­ing the tem­ple. On Wed­nes­day, Mr Modi of­fered gar­lands and prayers to the de­ity to the sound of conch shells blown by priests in saf­fron robes.

At the tem­ple site a 40kg sil­ver foun­da­tion stone was placed in the ground. Call­ing it the “dawn of a new era”, Mr Modi said: “In­dia is emo­tional as decades of wait has ended. For years, our Ram Lalla

[the in­fant Lord Ram] lived be­neath a tent; now he will re­side in a grand tem­ple.”

The tem­ple con­struc­tion is a po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious mile­stone for Mr Modi and the BJP. Fol­low­ing a sus­tained cam­paign, the party re­ceived the go-ahead for the tem­ple last Novem­ber from the supreme court, which said land should be found else­where for a new mosque. The BJP has suc­ceeded in turn­ing the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue of whether the tem­ple should be built into a touch­stone of Hindu iden­tity, a marker of the Hindu na­tion­al­ism that forms part of its core ide­ol­ogy known as Hin­dutva.

“It is an un­doubted vic­tory for Modi. He fan­cies him­self to be a greater icon of Hin­dutva than the ac­tual tem­ple,” said Parsa Venkatesh­war Rao Jr, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

Promi­nent Mus­lims have said the com­mu­nity was re­signed to the de­ci­sion but fear it could em­bolden Hindu na­tion­al­ists to tar­get two other mosques in the state of Ut­tar Pradesh.

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (top left), takes part in the ground­break­ing cer­e­mony in Ay­o­d­hya, Ut­tar Pradesh, In­dia.

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