On Monday 22 January 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his re-election campaign with the inauguration of a new multimillion-dollar Hindu temple in Ayodhya upon the ruins of the Babri Masjid Mosque.
30 years prior, on 6 December 1992, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party led a violent mob to demolish the Mosque to rubble - claiming that it was the ancient site of a Hindu temple for Lord Ram or the “Ram Mandir”. In the bloody communal riots that followed, over 2,000 people were killed.
A thorough investigation led by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan found 68 people to be responsible for the demolition of the Mosque — mostly leaders from the BJP, including senior figures and members of Parliament such as AB Vajpayee, who went onto become the Prime Minister in 1996, LK Advani, and Vijaya Raje Scindia. None of them have faced legal repercussions to date.
Since then, the ruling BJP government has embraced “Ram Mandir” as a battle cry for their nation-building project. “Ram is the faith of India, Ram is the foundation of India. Ram is the idea of India, Ram is the law of India,” Modi said in today’s address to the nation.
As Prime Minister, Modi has pushed this Hindu-nationalism as India’s dominant political force: banning the hijab in schools, introducing “anti-conversion” laws, abusing municipal forces to demolish Muslim households and shops in cities, and pushing for a “uniform civil code” in law.
Now, in open defiance of India's secular constitution, Modi fuses ‘Prime Minister’ with ‘Chief Priest’ to conduct the consecration of this controversial temple.
The “celebration” is not limited to Ayodhya. A holiday has been announced in several states, instructing government offices, schools, and markets to remain closed for the public broadcast.
“Islamophobia is no longer a fringe sentiment in India. It has become a state-manufactured ideology,” read the warning issued by Genocide Watch in 2023. The 10-year term of the country’s Hindu nationalist government has seen escalating violence and conflict against Muslims, who make up its largest minority — and a steady weakening of democratic institutions that could stand in the way.
India's fundamentalist turn is terrifying. We call on progressive forces around the world to stand vigilant ahead of its general elections in April. The people of India have struggled for decades to secure a democracy that is secular, just, and equal. Modi must not be permitted to rob them of it now.