Indian Prime Minister inaugurates controversial temple

New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated an important and controversial temple along with Hindu priests. The church in the northern Indian pilgrimage town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state stands on the site where a 16th-century mosque was destroyed by radical Hindus in 1992. Hindu nationalist Modi celebrated the opening on Monday with several thousand invited guests, and millions people watched the live broadcast of the celebration.

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Analysts also see the temple inauguration as the start of an unofficial campaign for the Prime Minister, who has been in office for ten years and is hoping for a third term in parliamentary elections in a few months. With the building – a long-standing election promise – Modi wants to inspire the Hindu majority, who make up 80 percent of the population in the multi-faith country.

Criticism: Increasing Hinduization in India

Critics also see it as a sign of the increasing Hinduization of India, where religious minorities increasingly feel like second-class citizens. Muslims are the largest minority and make up 14 percent of the population. Officially, the most populous country with 1.4 billion people has been a secular democracy since its independence from British colonial rule in 1947. But Modi regularly and deliberately combines politics and religion to increase his popularity among Hindus and has succeeded.

Many Hindus believe that the popular god Ram was born at the temple site. The destruction of the mosque led to serious unrest three decades ago, with around 2,000 deaths, according to media reports. In 2019, the country's highest court finally ruled that Hindus had the right to build their temples on the disputed plot of land. Radical Hindu groups compare the city's importance to Mecca for Muslims or the Vatican for Christians.

“India is now full of positive energy,” Modi said at the inauguration, stressing that today was nothing less than “the beginning of a new era.” “We are committed to building a capable, great and divine India from now onwards.”

Stars from the world of film and sports

Among the invited guests at the celebration, which lasted several hours, were important business people and stars from the world of film and sports. A number of states declared Monday a public holiday. However, most of the political opposition did not attend the event as they criticized the mixing of religion and politics. Some Hindus also opposed Monday's inauguration because the temple was not yet fully built.

Criticism also came from Pakistan, which is hostile to India and whose majority population is Muslim. “The temple built on the site of the destroyed mosque will remain a stain on Indian democracy,” the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad wrote in a statement. Therefore, the ceremony was an increasingly political expression of the majority. Pakistan accuses India of decades of efforts to marginalize Muslims socially, economically and politically. You also hear such words from Muslims in India. However, many believe that they must come to terms with the current situation.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:240122-99-706897/3

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