Why a giant Hindu deity appears in Times Square on Wednesday and why it’s so controversial

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But that did not prevent a bitter battle between Indo-Americans, Hindus and Muslims. The dispute is over billboards to be erected to celebrate a controversial temple located about 8,000 miles from Times Square.

The display panels, which are expected to be mounted on Wednesday, will display 3D images of the yet-to-be-built temple in northern India and the Hindu deity Ram.

“Centuries of waiting are over today,” Modi said at the ceremony. “Some people will not be able to believe that they see this in their lifetime. “

“The temple of Ram will be a modern signifier of our ancient culture, it will be an example of our patriotic fervor, it will be a symbol of the strength of the will of our citizens,” Modi continued. “This temple will unify the country. “

The violent story you need to know

This is quite a claim by the Prime Minister – because to date the holy place has caused a lot of violence and disunity.

The roots of the conflict date back to the 16th century, when Mughal Muslims built the Babri Masjid (mosque) on the site of Ayodha.

After India became independent from Britain, some Hindus placed religious statues in the mosque, claiming the site was originally the birthplace of Ram, the blue-skinned avatar. of Vishnu, one of the most powerful deities in Hinduism.

This claim was defended by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party in the 1990s. And that’s where the conflict got really serious.

Right-wing Hindus destroyed the mosque in 1992, sparking some of the deadliest sectarian violence to seize India since independence. More than 2,000 people have been killed in riots nationwide, which some accused the BJP of promoting for political ends.

After years of legal battles, the Indian Supreme Court in November 2019 granted Hindu groups permission to build the Ram Temple at the holy site of Ayodha.

Hindu priests gather for a dedication ceremony of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya, India,

Why the conflict continues

But as the billboard battle shows, the conflict is far from over – both in India and in the Indo-American diaspora.

Indo-American Muslims, human rights groups and anti-Modi Indian immigrants asked Time Square advertisers not to display the footage on Wednesday. They also called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to step in.

The coalition would have had some success. Branded Cities Network, the organization in charge of advertisements on the Nasdaq building has told an advocacy group it will not run the advertisements on its billboards, according to The Wire.

But the Ram ads are also slated to run on Disney and Clear Channel Outdoors – and it’s late enough in the game for those ads to be taken down.

All of this can be lost on New Yorkers rushing through Times Square, bombarded by the cavern of huge billboards, with no clue of the unrest 5,000 miles away.

But for millions of Indian and Hindu Muslims, the billboards – and what they symbolize – are another provocation in a conflict that has lasted for decades.

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