Sunday, March 3, 2024

Ram Temple Inauguration sets dangerous precedent for minorities in India, warns diaspora groups

A press note released by 22 Indian diaspora organisations jointly stated that they are “extremely concerned” about the dangerous precedent set by the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

It is, according to the press note, intended to politicise the faith and religion to win the elections and to sabotage the secular constitution of India.

“This is clearly the beginning of the BJP’s election campaign. Taking place four days before Republic Day, it is also an attempt to sideline and replace India’s secular Constitution which was drafted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar,” joint statement stated.

The Ram Temple, which was inaugurated today by PM Narendra Modi, has been built on the ruins of the 16th century Babri Masjid, destroyed by Hindu supremacists in 1992.

The 2019 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for the construction of the Ram Temple, has described the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid as a criminal act and rejected the Hindu claim that Masjid was built after destructing the Temple there.

The statement was signed by 22 diaspora organisations from the UK, the US, France and Australia.

The signatories include South Asia Justice Campaign, South Asia Solidarity Group, Alliance Against Islamophobia Australia, Coalition Against Fascism in India, Craigieburn Masjid and Community Centre, Hindus for Human Rights – UK, India Civil Watch International, North America, India Labour Solidarity (UK), Indian Alliance Paris, France, Indian American Muslim Council, International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India), Melbourne Grand Mosque, Muslim Collective, Australia, Peace in India (UK), Periyar Ambedkar Thoughts Circle of Australia. (PATCA). Australia, Scottish Indians For Justice, South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC), Strive UK, The Rights Collective (UK), UK Indian Muslim Council, Uniting Ummah of Australia Organisation, and Women Against Caste.

The statement criticised the timing, and intention behind the temple inauguration and alleged that it is part of the RSS mission to make India a Hindu Rashtra.

“The planned ‘consecration’ of the temple by Prime Minister Modi and other members of the ruling BJP party and RSS stalwarts is a signal that India has moved to the brink of implementing the long-term RSS goals of making India a Hindu Rashtra (State) and replacing the Constitution with the Manusmriti, a violently Brahminical, anti-Dalit and patriarchal ancient Hindu text.” The statement added.

Here is the full text of the statement:

We the undersigned diaspora organisations are extremely concerned about the dangerous precedent set by the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to mark the beginning of India’s general elections, taking place in April – May 2024. This is clearly the beginning of the BJP’s election campaign. Taking place four days before Republic Day, it is also an attempt to sideline and replace India’s secular Constitution which was drafted by Dr B R Ambedkar.

The Ram Temple has been built on the ruins of the 16th-century Babri Masjid Mosque, destroyed by Hindu supremacists in 1992. In 2019, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hindu supremacists’ claim to the land to authorize the construction of the temple, despite deeming the destruction of Babri Masjid Mosque as a criminal act. The ruling did not go as far as to condemn the cultural erasure of a historic Muslim site, however, nor did it seek to address the subsequent violent communal clashes in the country arising from its destruction.
The planned ‘consecration’ of the temple by Prime Minister Modi and other members of the ruling BJP party and RSS stalwarts is a signal that India has moved to the brink of implementing the long-term RSS goals of making India a Hindu Rashtra (State) and replacing the Constitution with the Manusmriti, a violently Brahminical, anti-Dalit and patriarchal ancient Hindu text. It also, of course, makes it clear that Hindutva will be front and centre of the BJP’s election campaign.

This is happening against a backdrop of a horrifying escalation in discrimination and violence against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and is against the secular fabric of the country and its Constitution.

The BJP party under Modi’s leadership has been actively seeking to erase traces of Muslim heritage in India, for example, through the revision of school textbooks and by rewriting history as told in popular media, and in public and political spheres. This is in a bid to present the minority community as alien and the Other, without any ties to India as construed by Hindu supremacist ideology.

The appropriation of Muslim religious sites, such as the Babri Masjid Mosque, is one of the tools in the Hindu nationalist arsenal. The Supreme Court’s verdict on the Babri Masjid Mosque in 2019 has given rise to similar claims and well-planned campaigns by Hindu supremacists against Muslim places of worship elsewhere in India. In Mathura city in Uttar Pradesh, a lawsuit is pending to determine whether the location of the Shahi Idgah mosque is the birthplace of Hindu God Krishna. In Varanasi, also in Uttar Pradesh, the Gyanwapi mosque is similarly being claimed by Hindu groups aligned to the ruling BJP party. By entertaining legal claims to these historical mosques, courts including the Uttar Pradesh High Court have enabled these acts of appropriation. India’s Supreme Court has itself opened the doors to legal challenges to the Places of Worship Act 1992, which sought to protect the religious character of historical buildings after the destruction of the Babri Masjid Mosque.

As India prepares for the upcoming General Election, the inauguration of the Ram Temple – on land where the Babri Majid mosque once stood – is a potent symbol of BJP’s disregard for the right to exist for religious minorities in India’s public sphere, and to exert their right to freedom of belief. It also cements a dangerous precedent already set in motion, further appropriating minorities’ cultural and religious heritage, and taking away their rights as Indian citizens.

As the Indian Republic enters its 75th year, we in the diaspora stand with all of those in India who are bravely resisting the Modi regime’s murderous and dehumanising offensive against Muslims, Christians, Dalits and other minorities, its virulent casteism and misogyny, its persecution of dissenters, and its attempts to replace or undermine the secular Constitution.

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