India’s PM Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone of a future Hindu shrine in the city of Ayodhya. The project became possible after a court sided with Hindus over Muslims about whose temple should be built there.
Modi told a gathering at Ayodhya, an ancient city in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh State that the shrine “will keep inspiring the future generations,” and its construction will serve as “an instrument to unite the country.”
It is an emotional moment for India. A long wait ends today. A grand temple will now be built for Lord Ram who had been living under a tent for many years.
Local media reported that festivities that had been planned were scaled down due to the Covid-19 outbreak. At the ceremony, the PM was accompanied by Hindu priests and a number of top officials.
Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the ground-breaking ceremony was the moment Indians from all across the world had been waiting “for centuries.”
The construction of the temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Ram only became possible last year, after the Supreme Court sided with Hindus over Muslims in a long-running dispute over whose shrine should be built in Ayodhya’
Muslims wanted to erect a mosque at the site where their previous shrine, the 16th-century Babri Masjid, had stood, before being demolished by Hindu activists in 1992. The Hindus argued that the Babri Masjid had been built on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Ram who, according to the Hindu tradition, was born in Ayodhya.
The court ruled in favor of the Ram temple, citing historical records showing Hindus were making pilgrimages and worshipping at the site before the Babri Masjid was erected.
The court also directed the government to give local Muslims a portion of the land for their shrine. The local Muslim council accepted the site offered by the government and is planning to build a mosque, an Islamic research center, a hospital and a library there.
Not all agree with the court ruling, however. On Tuesday, an NGO, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, labeled the decision to award the disputed site to Hindus an “usurpation of land.” In a similar vein, a group of Muslims launched a lawsuit earlier this year, arguing that the piece of land offered to them was “too far” from Ayodhya.