The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a dangerous precedent for minorities in India, said a group of civil society groups representing the Indian diaspora in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia on Monday.

The Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya was inaugurated earlier in the day in a ceremony led by the prime minister.

The temple, which is still under construction, is being built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,800 crore over 2.77 acres of land on the site where the Babri mosque once stood.

The mosque was demolished by Hindutva extremists on December 6, 1992, because they believed that it stood on the spot on which the deity Ram had been born. The incident had triggered communal riots across the country.

After the consecration of the temple, a group of 22 civil society groups issued a joint statement expressing their concern about the event in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

“The planned ‘consecration’ of the temple by Prime Minister Modi and other members of the ruling BJP party and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] stalwarts is a signal that India has moved to the brink of implementing the long-term RSS goals of making India a Hindu Rashtra [state] and replacing the Constitution with the Manusmriti,” the statement read.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindutva organisation, is the parent organisation of the ruling BJP.

Manusmriti is a Hindu scripture authored by an ascetic named Manu. The text has been widely criticised for its gender and caste-based codes.

Recalling the 2019 Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, the civil society groups said that it has given rise to similar claims from Hindutva supporters in Mathura as well.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 was illegal, but handed over the land to a trust for a Ram temple to be constructed. At the same time, it directed that a five-acre plot in Ayodhya be allotted to Muslims for a mosque to be constructed.

In 2020, a petition was filed in a Mathura court, stating that the Shahi Idgah mosque adjoining the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura should be removed. The petitioners had demanded that full ownership of the 13.37 acres of land around the mosque should be transferred to the deity Krishna.

The civil society groups further said that the consecration also makes it clear that “Hindutva will be front and centre of the BJP’s election campaign”. They said that the event, taking place against a backdrop of a “horrifying escalation in discrimination and violence against religious minorities, particularly Muslims”, is against the secular fabric of the country and its Constitution.

“As India prepares for the upcoming General Election, the inauguration of the Ram Temple – on land where the Babri Majid mosque once stood – is a potent symbol of BJP’s disregard for the right to exist for religious minorities in India’s public sphere, and to exert their right to freedom of belief,” read the statement.

Also read: