India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers prayers at the new temple

Indian Prime Minister Modi Inaugurates Historic Ram Temple in Ayodhya

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India presided over the inauguration of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram on Monday, marking a significant moment celebrated by the country’s Hindu majority. The temple, situated at a historically disputed site believed by many to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity, stands as a symbol of Hindu pride and cultural resurgence.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under Modi’s leadership, along with affiliated Hindu nationalist groups, has highlighted the temple’s opening as a key milestone in what they describe as a Hindu renaissance. This movement seeks to reclaim the nation’s identity from centuries of foreign domination, including periods of Muslim rule and British colonialism.

The consecration ceremony, attended by key figures from the BJP and its ideological allies, underscores the political and religious significance of the temple in India’s ongoing discourse on heritage and secularism. Critics, however, view the event through a different lens, seeing it as a potential flashpoint in the country’s multi-religious tapestry.

For years, the temple site has been the center of a bitter dispute between Hindus, who regard it as the birthplace of Lord Ram, and Muslims, leading to a devastating riot in 1992 that resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,000 people, predominantly Muslims. This conflict was ignited by the demolition of a 16th-century mosque by Hindu nationalists, a structure Muslims assert was built over a previously razed temple.

The Indian Supreme Court’s 2019 verdict, which allocated the land for the temple’s construction and provided for a separate plot for a new mosque, has yet to see the latter’s commencement. Modi, addressing an exclusive assembly during the inauguration, emphasized the temple’s significance as a beacon of a new epoch for India, symbolizing the country’s departure from a “mentality of slavery” to forge “new history.”

However, the event was not without its detractors. Most opposition parties, including the main opposition Congress, abstained from the ceremony, criticizing it for being transformed into a BJP-centric political spectacle. Furthermore, international reactions, notably from Pakistan, decried the event as indicative of rising majoritarianism in India, calling on New Delhi to protect the rights and safety of its minority populations.