After Lord Rama who ruled Ayodhya

Hindu nationalists on Ayodhya's temple barricades

Even angels are afraid to enter the square, writes the Supreme Court of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, in its 2010 ruling. The piece of land in Ayodhya, it says, "is full of landmines" - and by that the judge means not mines in the traditional sense.

Ayodhya in India stands for conflict, tension, violence, death. Because the sacred piece of land, a little more than a square kilometer, is claimed by Hindus and Muslims alike. The Hindus want to build a temple exactly where the Babri Mosque stood for hundreds of years. Built in 1528 under the Muslim Mughal rulers who ruled India for 300 years.

On December 6, 1992, exactly 26 years ago, the dispute over the country escalated. An angry mob of radical Hindus stormed the Babri Mosque, began to remove the roof, and the house of prayer was destroyed in a very short time. Violent clashes erupted across the country, killing over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims. A supreme court judgment on who owns the land is still pending. And today, 26 years after the national trauma and a few months before the national elections, politicians are rediscovering Ayodhya as a pool to catch votes.

Hindu nationalists are calling for the storm again

Although the country is "full of landmines", one must risk settling the conflict, according to the 2010 judgment. Careful, cautious. "Only fools would rush in there."

"Chalo Ayodhya!", Or "Off to Ayodhya", is written on the posters that are hanging on the walls of the cities in and around Ayodhya these days. Hung by the World Indurate (VHP) and the Shiv Sena, two Hindu organizations. The Hindu god Rama is shown on the posters. The Hindus believe that he was born in Ayodhya 60,000 years ago. On the poster, Rama holds his bow in one hand and a pointed arrow in the other, ready to be harnessed for shooting at any time.

It was not until the end of November that 200,000 Hindus demonstrated in Ayodhya, waving saffron-colored flags and demanding the construction of the Hindu temple.

With the hashtag "MandirPush", or "Tempelpush", they mobilized their supporters for one of the largest mass rallies since the bloody riots of 1992.

15 percent Muslim in India

The conflict is about religious feelings and national identity: Who or what is India? 1.3 billion people live in the second largest country on earth, around 15 percent of them are Muslims. After independence from Great Britain in 1947, the founders of the state embraced a secular democracy. But this multicultural version of India is increasingly on the brink.

With just under 50,000 inhabitants, Ayodhya is a small place by Indian standards. But for Hindus the city is one of the "Saptapuris", the seven holy places of pilgrimage. The place becomes the political focal point of the controversy. Indian courts have been grappling with the case for 60 years. In 1949, shortly after India's independence, Hindus placed a Rama statue in the mosque. The state then decided that no one was allowed to move the statue. In fact, the house was no longer used as a mosque, and the conflict was born.

Hindu party BJP is fueling conflict

But it was only with the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) at the end of the 1980s that Ayodhya became a mass topic. The BJP was able to form a government in Uttar Pradesh for the first time - the demand for a temple in Ayodhya was a core part of their election campaign.

The outbreaks of violence in 1992 stunned many in the country. India's then President Shankar Shamar took the reins in the state and dismissed the government. The area was bought by the federal government and soldiers have been guarding the entrances to the area ever since. On the anniversary, 2,000 security guards are on duty in the city.

The Allahabad Court avoided judgment for 18 years. It was not until 2010 that the judges came up with the long-awaited ruling: The country should be divided into three parts. One part belongs to the Muslims, two parts belong to Hindu associations.

Both sides appealed. Since then, it has been the turn of India's Supreme Court in Delhi, the Supreme Court, to judge the explosive matter. Another hearing should have taken place in October - but it was postponed until January.

Taj Mahal is supposed to be called "Ram Mahal"

The BJP, which has provided the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014, is increasingly focusing on the topic again today. The BJP politician and Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath rules in Uttar Pradesh. This not only loudly calls for the temple, but plans to erect a huge Rama statue in the city.

In addition, he relies on the "Sanskritization" of city names in his state - to make it clear who is in charge in India: Ali Nagar became Arya Nagar, Islampur became Ishwarpur. One of the largest cities in the state, Allahabad, is now called Prayagraj, and Faizabad district has become Ayodhya. If he could, Adhityaya said last year, he would rename the Taj Mahal, which was built for a Mughal queen, the Ram Mahal.

A few months before the election across India in May 2019, critics warn that the BJP is now fueling a conflict that has often helped it to vote. After all, Uttar Pradesh is a key state in the elections. Most MPs from the most populous state are sent to Parliament in Delhi. Critics are hoping for a Supreme Court ruling that could calm the heated mood.

"To hell with the Supreme Court," chanted radical Hindus in Ayodhya. They want "their" temple, at all costs. "Many people believe the problem with the temple has subsided," said Krishna Gopal of the RSS (Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh), the radical parent party of the BJP, two weeks ago. "But we must warn them: from now on we will not sit still until we see the temple of Lord Rama."

The next mass demonstration, organized by RSS, is scheduled for December 9th in Delhi. (Anna Sawerthal, December 6, 2018)