The event is Modi’s first time to visit Ayodhya. It marks the culmination of a sustained political campaign by her party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for a temple to be built where a Hindu mob, watched by some BJP leaders, demolished an older mosque. of 400 years in 1992. causing riots that left nearly 2,000 dead.
Since then, the issue has sparked riots, propelled the BJP to political power from the fringes where it languished, polarized Hindus and Muslims and, with its complex mix of history, religion, mythology, law and religion, emotion, dominated Indian political life. .
For the BJP, it will be a moment of political triumph for its ideology of Hindu cultural nationalism.For many ordinary Hindus, it will be a moment of simple pride – a temple under construction for Lord Ram, the most revered god in the Hindu pantheon, in the place where they believe he was born. Every Diwali, Hindu around the world celebrates Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya as the victory of good over evil.
But for Indian Muslims, the emotions are more ambivalent – lasting pain at the demolition of the mosque that once stood there, mixed with resigned acceptance.
Muslim political leader Asaduddin Owaisi criticized Modi for attending the religious event, saying it amounted to violating the oath he had taken to India’s secular constitution and warning him that it “would open wounds “.
The construction was approved by the Supreme Court in November, when it ruled that a temple could be built and land provided elsewhere for a new mosque, ending a protracted legal dispute.
“It is a day that we have been waiting patiently. My father and my grandfather dreamed of this temple. It will be a historical monument in India and I hope it will attract millions of tourists to the city, ”said Anil Awasthi, taxi driver in Ayodhya.
The city of Uttar Pradesh receives the traditional Potemkin facelift given to all Indian cities when dignitaries are expected. The roads were swept and adorned with saffron flags and streamers. The buildings were painted, and brightly colored murals depicting scenes from Ram’s life appeared on the walls and exterior of the houses. Soil and water from various sacred rivers and sacred sites were brought in.
When it begins, the ceremony will be broadcast live so that Hindus across the country and members of the Indian diaspora can watch it.
But the timing of the ceremony, which comes as India grapples with the pandemic and is currently the fifth worst affected country, has drawn criticism.
“Some people believe that building a temple will help fight Covid-19,” senior politician Sharad Pawar said.
Others have pointed out what they call Modi’s “misplaced priorities” in holding the ceremony while battling Covid-19. Inside the complex, a priest and 15 police officers tested positive for the virus.
The Home Office itself has banned all large gatherings and urged all Indians over 65 (Modi is 69 and many of the BJP leaders who will be present are even older) to stay at home because they are more vulnerable to the virus.
As for the guest list, although massively pruned because of Covid-19, it still includes at least 200 dignitaries.