Twenty two south Asian diaspora organisations from the UK, US and Australia issued a joint statement on Monday, January 22, expressing concerns about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's participation in the inauguration of the Ayodhya Ram Temple. The organisations said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a “dangerous precedent” by inaugurating the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which was constructed on the razed site of the 16th century Babri Masjid. The diaspora organisations said that they view this as an attempt to replace India’s secular constitution and make the country a Hindu rashtra (state).
Babri Masjid, built in 1528 by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur, was demolished by kar sevaks belonging to Hindu majoritarian outfits on December 6, 1992.
The organisations said Modi’s participation in the Ram temple inauguration marked the beginning of BJP’s Lok Sabha 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 statement read.
The organisations which signed the joint statement 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, 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 planned ‘consecration’ of the temple by Prime Minister Modi and other members of the ruling [Bharatiya Janata Party] and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] 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,” their statement read.
The 22 organisations said that the consecration was happening “against the 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.”
They said, “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 statement said that Hindu nationalist groups are appropriating Muslim religious sites, referencing the Supreme Court's 2019 verdict on the Babri Masjid land, which led to similar claims against Muslim places of worship in Varanasi and Mathura.
“As India prepares for the upcoming General Election, the inauguration of the Ram Temple – on land where the Babri Masjid 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,” the statement read.
The organisations asserted that they 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.”
Babri Masjid was demolished by kar sevaks belonging to Hindu majoritarian outfits on December 6, 1992 following a concerted Ram Janmabhoomi movement. This resulted in communal riots over months, which led to over 2,000 deaths. The Babri Masjid has been a contested site since 1885 as religious leaders and Hindutva outfits considered it Ram Janambhoomi or the birthplace of Lord Ram.
A legal fight ensued in 1950 when Gopal Visharad Sharma approached the Faizabad district court for the right to worship idols of Ram Lalla, which were placed there in 1949. On September 30, 2010, the High Court, in a 2:1 majority, ruled a three-way division of the disputed area between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla.
Nine years later, the Supreme Court granted the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land to deity Ram Lalla and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to allot five acres of land to Muslims for building a mosque. Though the Supreme Court referred to the mosque’s demolition as “an egregious violation of the rule of law”, the verdict was criticised for accepting the logic of “faith over fact” and granting legal possession of land to those responsible for the demolition.