Uttar Pradesh changes after the victory of BJP

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Ayodhya is located in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the Indian Union with 166 million people. The small town with 80,000 inhabitants is located about 130 kilometers east of the state capital Lucknow on the Saryu River, a tributary of the Ganges. Ayodhya is one of the seven holy places of Hinduism, although other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have been an integral part of life in the region for centuries. Hundreds of temples of the different denominations still shape the image of Ayodhya today and make the city a spiritual center.

The meaning of Ayodhyas for Hindu mythology can be derived from the Ramayana. This epic from the second century BC describes the story of the god-king Ram. According to legend, Ram, a reincarnation of the god Vishnu, was born the son of the ruler of Ayodhya. After Ram defeated the demon king Ravana, he was finally crowned king himself. Despite this early mention, Ayodhya did not begin until the 11th / 12th. Century to develop into a center of the Vishnuitic faith and a place of pilgrimage. The destination of the Hindu pilgrims became the Ram Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Ram. However, there is no firm evidence that Ram was worshiped in any particular temple.

In the summer of 2001, almost nine years after the razing of the Babri Mosque, the small town made a calm, almost peaceful impression and at first little remembers the tragic events of 1992. Even the checkpoints of the army and police on the access roads to Ayodhya those bored security forces stop the vehicles seem out of place. But this picture changes only ten minutes away from the main road. Barbed wire and watchtowers mark the ruins of the destroyed Babri Mosque and a four meter high fence surrounds the entire area. Guards patrol everywhere who, unlike their colleagues on the outskirts, keep a close eye on every movement. At the rear of the hermetically sealed area is a small hill on which the Babri Mosque once stood. Today there is an inconspicuous tent at this point, in which the Ram Janmabhoomi is said to be.

Access to the "birthplace of Rams" is difficult for foreign visitors. The first thing to do is to satisfy the curiosity of a friendly gentleman who identifies himself as a secret service employee when asked. He wants to know why they came to Ayodhya. Following the explanations, he records the personal details and finally explains that nothing stands in the way of a viewing. However, for security reasons, it is not allowed to take photos. In addition, it is not possible to enter the area alone, but that is not a problem, as he is happy to accompany interested parties.

After having passed the first lock, a 150 meter long path, fenced on both sides, extends to a second passage. Bags, sunglasses and pens must also be handed in here. The next stage leads through a kind of playpen. The path is only a meter wide and is bordered on both sides by a high fence. At the third checkpoint, the visitor is finally asked to hand in the passport. The way to the shrine also leads through the playpen described. About halfway down the U-shaped path that leads over the ruins of the Babri Mosque is the five by five meter tent with the shrine to God Ram. The Hindu pilgrims pass it in awe, but it is not possible to do more than look, pause for a moment and pray. The security forces urge you to hurry.

"Ayodhya used to be a wonderful and peaceful city," says Mahant Bholadas. The old priest sits in front of one of the countless small temples that line the way back to the city center. "There was no riot or tension. The anger only began when the magistrate closed the mosque in 1949." When asked how he assesses the current situation, Bholadas says thoughtfully: "We know that Sri Ram was born in Ayodhya. But we cannot say whether it was in this or that house. How can anyone say that it is exact been in the place of the old mosque? " A little annoyed, Bholadas confirms that it was mainly radical forces who pushed the campaign forward. In addition, hardly any locals were involved in the destruction of the mosque in 1992, and almost all Hindu nationalist volunteers came from outside the country.

In the middle of the 19th century, followers of a Hindu sect first claimed that the Ram Janmabhoomi was located exactly where the Babri Mosque stood until nine years ago. The 16th-century mosque is said to have been built on the ruins of a previously destroyed Ram temple by order of the Mughal ruler Babur, but it is disputed whether this view corresponds to historical facts. Neither the year of construction nor the builder himself can be clearly proven. And the previous destruction of a temple is just as impossible to prove as the exact place of birth of Ram. The first violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya occurred between 1853 and 1855 after radical Hindus occupied the mosque. A compromise negotiated between the two religious communities through the mediation of the British colonial rulers allowed the Muslims to continue praying in the mosque and the Hindus to perform their rites in the courtyard of the house of God.

Until 1949 the situation remained relatively calm due to the common use of the mosque. That changed when about 60 people broke into the mosque on the night of December 22nd to 23rd and installed a Ram statue. If many Hindus believed that Ram had revealed himself and returned to his place of birth, Muslims saw this incident as a desecration of their house of prayer. The action caused considerable unrest in Ayodhya, whereupon the higher-level police authority ordered the statue to be removed. The Faizabad District Magistrate, a supporter of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (1), did not comply with this order. However, he asked the imam to leave his mosque and had its doors locked. However, Hindu priests were still allowed to perform their ceremonies in front of the statue in the morning and in the evening, and even believers had limited access. The entire area of ​​the Babri Mosque was placed under state supervision after this incident.

The Muslims did not want to simply accept the loss of their mosque and tried to get their place of worship back through political intervention, but without success. At the same time, various judicial processes were set in motion by both sides, which, although confirming the status quo, did not lead to a final judgment. The situation as it had arisen at the end of 1949 remained until the mid-1980s without any notable conflicts.

In 1984 the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Council of Hindus, VHP), a global organization founded in 1964 on the initiative of the RSS, began a campaign to "liberate Ram's birthplace". The aim was to demolish the Babri Mosque and build a temple. In the following years the Hindu nationalist triad, which includes the VHP and RSS as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gained more and more influence on national politics and pushed the Ayodhya campaign forward. Little by little, an environment was created in which the Hindu nationalists succeeded, by concentrating on Ram, to reduce the religious diversity of Hinduism to a single symbol and at the same time to create a symbol of national unity. A unit that excludes other religious groups such as the more than 140 million Muslims in India.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the then President of the BJP and today's Indian Interior Minister L.K. Advani to lead the Ayodhya campaign. With a minibus converted into a chariot of the gods, Advani crossed central and northern India on the way to Ayodhya and aggressively propagated the construction of a Ram temple. Advani's chariot procession triggered numerous acts of violence against Muslims in many parts of India, in which dozens of people were killed. The procession was eventually stopped by the central government before it could reach Ayodhya. The merciless populism with which the BJP instrumentalized religious symbols for its political goals did not fail to have an impact. The party was able to multiply its parliamentary mandates at both state and federal level. In the early summer of 1991, the election victory in Uttar Pradesh even enabled her to take over the government in that state. When the situation deteriorated again in 1991, the central government was reluctant to take precautions to secure the Babri Mosque. It left the responsibility to the BJP-led state government, which, however, showed no interest in a solution.

After years of agitation and multiple announcements, thousands of Kar Sevaks from all over India stormed the Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992 under the leadership of the VHP and in the presence of the BJP party leadership. Video recordings show that the action was precisely planned. Equipped with hammers, axes and long ropes, the Hindu nationalist volunteers first tore down the security systems and then razed the Muslim church to the ground within a few hours. The three domes of the Babri Mosque were blown up with dynamite and the next morning a small shrine to the god Ram had already been built on the ruins of the mosque. The police forces present had not intervened, whether out of fear of the armed and fanatical Kar Sevaks or out of political calculation, it will probably never be possible to determine.

India was in shock. Politics had failed and within a day the Hindu nationalists had created facts that were irreversible. In the weeks that followed, hate and frustration erupted in terrible unrest in many parts of the country, killing more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.

The central government led by Congress (I) reacted to the events with a temporary ban on RSS and VHP and removed all BJP-led state governments. Two years later, however, the BJP took over government responsibility in Uttar Pradesh again. In 1998 she was able to gain power at the federal level and has been the prime minister with Atal Behari Vajpayee ever since. The impression that the escalation of the events in Ayodhya had turned against the Hindu nationalists was short-lived. The BJP is generally more moderate, but the discussions about the temple building are repeatedly put on the political agenda by Hindu nationalist hardliners and an amicable solution is not in sight even nine years after the razing of the Babri Mosque.

The VHP in particular continues to aggressively advocate the construction of a Ram temple. In late January, the organization led a march of several thousand radical Hindus from Ayodhya to the capital New Delhi to demonstrate for the construction of the temple. The VHP has now given the government an ultimatum to approve the construction of the temple by March 12th. The government is in a quandary with parliamentary elections in Uttar Pradesh that same month. Despite statements to the contrary by the moderate BJP wing around Prime Minister Vajpayee and the promise to let the courts rule on this issue, the controversy surrounding the Ram Temple is made a central issue in the election campaign. "The building of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is the wish of every BJP supporter," announced party leader Jana Krishnamurthy at a rally in autumn 2001.

It remains to be seen how the situation around the mosque and temple complex in Ayodhya will develop in the coming months. Unfortunately, there is little reason to hope and a unanimous solution is becoming more and more distant every year. Contrary to the principles of the Indian constitution, Hindu nationalist zealots are supported by the politics of the ruling BJP, because the party fears for its electorate. The summer tranquility was perhaps just the deceptive calm before another storm of religious fanaticism that could soon sweep the whole country.


(1) The national volunteer association Rhastriya Swayamsevak Sangh was founded in 1925 in Nagpur, central India. The RSS represents the main institutional carrier of the Hindu nationalist ideology and has the goal of organizing the Hindus according to nationalist points of view and of re-establishing the unity of the Hindu nation, which was believed to be lost. In the years 1927 to 1947, the RSS quickly developed into an important organization of the Hindu urban middle and upper classes in northern India. However, his contribution to the Indian struggle for freedom was very small. From the beginning, the organization's activities were directed more against the Muslims than against the British. Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, was a member of the RSS.


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