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Ahead of key polls, India’s ruling party revives Hindu-Muslim dispute



By Alasdair Pal and Saurabh Sharma

MATHURA, India (Reuters) – Within the streets round a revered non secular website within the Indian metropolis of Mathura the place a temple and mosque stand side-by-side, the handful of Muslim eating places that stay are largely empty or shuttered.

A ban on meat final yr by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, a Hindu monk who issued the order on non secular grounds, has decimated their commerce.

Now the saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath, up for re-election in key state polls subsequent month, has turned his consideration to the temple itself, suggesting he’ll champion the Hindu trigger in a long-running dispute with Muslims over who owns the location.

The problem has change into a central a part of the ruling celebration’s marketing campaign to increase its grip on energy in Uttar Pradesh, house to 200 million folks and the bellwether of nationwide politics.

Hindus and Muslims have argued for many years over who ought to management the location, echoing different disputes in India which have, on events, flared into lethal riots between the 2 communities.

Whereas communal violence in India is sporadic, clashes erupted throughout the nation in early 2020 over a citizenship legislation that Muslims stated was discriminatory. Dozens of individuals died.

Now point out of the Mathura dispute throughout marketing campaign rallies and on social media has the town’s Muslims fearful, in keeping with interviews with greater than 20 residents.

“An outdated case which has been settled … is being revived as a result of we have now a brand new, triumphalist Hinduism,” stated Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, creator of a number of books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist motion.

“There’s a better emphasis on taking part in the temple card.”

Opinion polls recommend that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), to which Adityanath belongs, will win the vote in Uttar Pradesh, regardless of broad discontent over the economic system and the federal government’s dealing with of the pandemic.

The chief minister, seen by some analysts as a possible successor to Modi, has solid the poll as “80% versus 20%”, figures he didn’t totally clarify. The chances carefully match the Hindu and Muslim share of the inhabitants throughout the state.

Adityanath’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the state of affairs in Mathura.


The BJP swept to energy in Uttar Pradesh on a Hindu-first agenda in 2017, and didn’t discipline a single Muslim candidate. Indians vote for highly effective state legislatures individually from nationwide parliamentary elections.

That victory mirrored the celebration’s dominance nationally, since Modi stormed to energy in 2014 after interesting to the Hindu majority.

The primary opposition Congress celebration complains that by placing Hindus first, he and the BJP discriminate towards minorities and danger stoking violence. Modi has defended his report and says his financial and social insurance policies profit all Indians.

Jamal Siddiqui, head of the BJP’s minority fee, stated the celebration was working to extend the variety of minority candidates in Uttar Pradesh and the 4 different states going to the polls subsequent month.

“I hope the minority group will take part each in elections and in authorities,” he advised Reuters. “The Modi authorities has protected non secular websites for all religions. Now, as an alternative of being afraid of saffron, Muslims are coming nearer.”

Suspicion of the BJP amongst Muslims in Mathura had been attributable to deceptive claims from opposition events, Siddiqui added.


Among the many holiest cities in Hinduism, Mathura, some 150 km south of New Delhi, is believed to be the birthplace of Krishna, probably the most essential Hindu deities.

A temple standing on the reputed website of his start was razed and changed by a mosque, often called the Shahi Eidgah, within the seventeenth century in the course of the Islamic Mughal empire. A Hindu temple complicated constructed within the Nineteen Fifties now backs on to the mosque.

An settlement was brokered in 1968 to settle using the land, and the 2 constructions stood like “two sisters” till authorized motion to demolish the mosque started in 2020, stated Z. Hassan, president of the belief that runs the Eidgah.

“I’ve been right here for 55 years. I’ve not felt rigidity between Hindus and Muslims,” he stated. “Solely in the previous few years this concept has come that there are two communities.”

The case, delivered to an area court docket by a number of Hindu monks, says the 1968 settlement was fraudulent.

“This land is essential to us,” stated Vishnu Jain, the lawyer appearing for the petitioners. “I don’t imagine in any form of dialogue. There is just one compromise which may occur – that they are going to be out of this property.”

Each side anticipate the case to final for years.

The native dispute has been taken up by Adityanath and several other different BJP leaders throughout campaigning.

He advised a rally final month that work on establishing a temple in Mathura, alongside the traces of an identical growth in Ayodhya, was “in progress”, with out giving extra element.

Ayodhya was the scene of communal violence in 1992 and 1993 wherein greater than 2,000 folks died, after a mob demolished the sixteenth century Babri Masjid mosque that many Hindus claimed was on the birthplace of Lord Rama – one other essential deity.

A court docket ruling permitting the development of a temple on the location of the Babri Masjid was a serious marketing campaign concern within the 2019 normal election, when the BJP elevated its majority.


Many Hindu residents of Mathura assist plans to reclaim the land from the mosque.

“The land is ours and must be given again,” stated Bipin Goswami, an 19-year-old together with his face daubed saffron with sandalwood paste.

Native authorities mobilized 1000’s of safety personnel in December after fringe Hindu teams introduced an try to position a statue of Krishna contained in the mosque on the anniversary of the Babri Masjid’s destruction.

The try failed, however on the mosque, ringed with barbed wire and lookout towers because the early Nineteen Nineties, police now verify the ID playing cards of everybody coming into the complicated.

Aved Khan, a 30-year-old Muslim who has a meals cart in Mathura, stated he modified the identify of his enterprise from Srinath Dosa to American Dosa Nook after a bunch of males demanded that he cease utilizing a Hindu identify.

“You’re Muslim, how are you going to have this identify?” one of many males requested, tearing down the stall’s indicators, in keeping with a police report of the incident in August.

Rajesh Mani Tripathi, nationwide president of the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Mukti Dal – a hardline Hindu group that was additionally behind the try to put in the statue – advised Reuters he was one of many males concerned within the altercation.

“If he was Muslim then he ought to write his identify on the banner and mustn’t cheat folks by mentioning a Hindu identify,” he stated.

Muslims in Mathura additionally complained about Adityanath’s choice in September to ban meat inside a 3 km radius of the temple.

On the empty Royal Restaurant, one of many few within the space remaining open, cooks style conventional lamb kebabs and hen tikka out of soya.

“Earlier than the BJP there was no rigidity right here,” stated Sajid Anwar, standing earlier than his shuttered Labbaik Restaurant.

Anwar stated there was no demand for vegetarian meals amongst Muslims. He’s ready for the election outcomes earlier than deciding whether or not to shut completely.

“If Yogi returns, I should discover one other commerce.”

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Mathura and Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Modifying by Mike Collett-White)