Indian town tense as thousands of Hindus gather near disputed religious site

Shiv Sena activists wave a flag at Lakshman Qila during an event for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya on Nov. 24, 2018. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018

Indian town tense as thousands of Hindus gather near disputed religious site

  • Over 200,000 people are expected near the site where a Hindu mob in 1992 pulled down a 16th-century mosque
  • Hindu groups point to evidence there was a temple before a mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528

AYODHYA, India: Amid heavy security, tens of thousands of monks and activists from Hindu nationalist groups began converging on the Indian town of Ayodhya on Sunday to demand the construction of a temple on a disputed religious site.
Over 200,000 people are expected near the site where a Hindu mob in 1992 pulled down a 16th-century mosque, sparking deadly religious riots that killed some 2,000 people in one of India's worst communal violence since the partition in 1947.
More than 900 extra police and a large number of paramilitary, including elite commandos, have been stationed at Ayodhya, said Vivek Tripathi, spokesman for the Uttar Pradesh police. "We're monitoring the entire town by CCTV and drone cameras," Tripathi said.
In the run-up to a general election due by May 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and many Hindu outfits affiliated with the BJP have ratcheted up their demand for a new temple at the disputed site which most Hindus believe was the birthplace of warrior-God Lord Ram.
Hindu groups point to evidence there was a temple before a mosque was built by a Muslim ruler in 1528.
"The mosque was a slight on Hindus and it's a shame that we've failed to build a temple on one of the most holy sites for Hindus," said Sharad Sharma, spokesman for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or the World Hindu Council, which has close ties with the BJP.
Hindus are getting impatient and the time has come to build a grand temple for Lord Ram, Sharma said.
The group gathering on Sunday will urge the government to introduce a legislation to pave the way for a temple, said Bablu Khan, an elected BJP council member in Ayodhya.
Both Hindu and Muslim groups have petitioned India's Supreme Court to help resolve the issue. The top court has sought more time to give its verdict.
Sharma said the delay has disappointed India's majority Hindu community which can not wait endlessly for a verdict.
Both the BJP and VHP and their parent movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have asked the government to issue an executive order to build a temple and bypass the Supreme Court.
The heavily fortified site, which looks like a small garrison town, is under the control of the Supreme Court.
Sunday's congregation in Ayodhya would be followed up with bigger gatherings in New Delhi, India's capital, said Sharma.
The build-up of Hindu religious leaders and right wing political activists has also raised questions about the safety of Muslims who live in Ayodhya and other nearby areas.
Zafaryab Jilani, a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said it's incumbent upon the state administration to ensure the safety of the community.
The administration is geared up to protect every single individual in the town, said Anil Pathak, district chief of Faizabad, where the Ayodhya town is located.


France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

Updated 40 min 39 sec ago

France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

  • Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib

PARIS: The investigation into the murder in France of a teacher for showing caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer had a militant contact, a source close to the case said.
Seven people have been charged with being complicit in a “terrorist murder” after 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov killed Samuel Paty on Friday, including two teenagers who helped him identify the teacher.
France paid homage to Paty on Wednesday, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that the history and geography teacher had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.
In their search for accomplices, anti-terror investigators have now established that Anzorov had contact with a Russian-speaking militant in Syria whose identity is not yet known, the source told AFP.
Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.
In an audio message in Russian immediately after the killing, translated by AFP, Anzorov said that he had “avenged the Prophet” whom the teacher had shown “in an insulting way.”
The message was published on social media in a video, accompanied by two tweets, one showing the victim’s severed head and another in which Anzorov confessed to the murder.
Moments later he was shot dead by police. Anzorov decapitated Paty with a long knife.
Many of Paty’s students saw the images online before they could be taken down.
The teenagers who pointed out Paty to his killer in return for money were late Wednesday charged over the killing.

HIGHLIGHT

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.

The parent of one of Paty’s pupils, who started the social media campaign against the teacher even though his daughter was not in class when the cartoons were shown, was also charged.
Also charged was a known extremist radical who helped the father stir up outrage against Paty.
The other three facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of whom allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.
Two of them also face c harges of being complicit in terrorist murder while the third was charged with a lesser offense, the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.
Paty, 47, became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
Police have carried out dozens of raids since the crime, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective, a group they said supported Hamas.
The French government has earmarked for dissolution more than 50 other organizations it accuses of having links with extremists.
Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial of alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack started last month.
The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defense of free speech and the right to mock religion.
“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron vowed at a ceremony Wednesday in Paty’s honor at the Sorbonne university in Paris.