Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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India keeps its glorious, messy tradition alive

In January, when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed virtually unstoppable, he visited the small city of Ayodhya for the unofficial start of his campaign for a third term.

The location was loaded with symbolism. For decades, Hindu nationalists had tried to build a temple in Ayodhya, on a site they believe is the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. The only problem was that there was already a place of worship on site, a mosque built in 1528 by a Mughal emperor. A Hindu mob had dismantled the mosque in 1992, sparking riots that killed 2,000 people, most of whom were Muslims. The ruins were a focal point of religious tension in India for decades.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party pledged to build the temple and the lavish event at which Modi officially opened the temple was a showcase for that achievement. At the time, it seemed like a strong election message for a politician who built his career on the twin pillars of Hindu nationalism and building a powerful new India. Unlike other politicians, the event implied, Modi made promises and kept them.

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