Nepal PM angers India with Hindu deity claim

Bharatiya Janata Party activists hold a protest in Kolkata on Wednesday against the West Bengal state government, demanding a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into the death of BJP leader Debendra Nath Roy. (AFP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Nepal PM angers India with Hindu deity claim

  • Anger erupts after leader accuses New Delhi of ‘cultural encroachment’

NEW DELHI: A claim by Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli that the disputed religious site of Ayodhya was in Nepal, not India, and that the Hindu deity Lord Ram was Nepalese, has inflamed tensions between the neighboring countries.

Oli also accused India of “cultural encroachment” in its use of the religious site, reigniting a feud over the issue that goes back centuries.

“Ram was not Indian, but Nepali. Nepal has become a victim of cultural encroachment and its history has been manipulated,” Oli said while marking the holiday of Bhanu Jayanti at his residence in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital.

This year’s Bhanu Jayanti marks the 206th birthday of renowned Nepalese poet Bhanubhakta Acharya, who translated the Ramayana, the Hindu epic, from Sanskrit into the Nepali language. Nepal, like India, is dominated by a single belief system, with 81.3 percent of its population identifying as Hindu.

However, 80 percent of the Indian population is also Hindu and claim that Ayodhya, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram.

But on Monday Oli said India had created a “fake” Ayodhya, and that it was actually “located west of Birgunj in Nepal.”

He said: “India has created a disputed Ayodhya, a fake Ayodhya. Lord Ram’s kingdom was not in Uttar Pradesh but in Nepal, near Balmiki Ashram.”

Officials from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condemned the claims. Spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal told Arab News that the Nepalese premier is a “communist” and is “playing the Chinese game.”

He said: “Communists in Nepal will be rejected by the masses in the same way they have been in India, even as left-wing parties in India played with people’s faith.”

The BJP is a predominantly Hindu party that has gained huge political and electoral power in India. It has staged a long-term campaign to build a temple for Lord Ram at the disputed religious site in Ayodhya.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the BJP, then only a marginal political power, launched a divisive political strategy to build a temple on the site of the 16th-century Babri Mosque. The party and other Hindu organizations claimed the mosque was built by Babur, the first Mughal emperor, following the demolition of a temple which allegedly marked the site of Ram’s birth.

The campaign resulted in the demolition of the mosque by Hindu activists in 1992, leading to religious violence across the country, which claimed hundreds of lives. Mumbai witnessed one of the worst religious riots in its history.

The matter went to court and after several years, the Supreme Court, in a controversial judgment in November last year, awarded the disputed territory to a Hindu trust and gave Muslim petitioners five acres of land in a separate place in Ayodhya to construct a building of their choice.

The World Hindu Organization, an ally of the BJP and a prominent group which mobilized people for the Ram temple campaign in Ayodhya, said that by claiming that Ayodhya was in Nepal, Oli was hurting the religious traditions of the two countries.

“This is an attempt to hurt the ancient religious bonding and feelings between Nepal and India,” Sharad Sharma, the group’s spokesperson, told Arab News.

Dhirendra K. Jha, journalist and author of the investigative book “Ayodhya — The Dark Night,” said that India’s claims were nothing but a “myth.”

He said: “The story of Ram is a myth and not based on any historical evidence. And you cannot prove that he was born in Ayodhya, which is located in Uttar Pradesh.”

He added that Oli’s claim was part of the “myth-making” process, as there were “varied stories about Ram.”

“The entire process of myth-making is something used by different communities in different points of history. That’s why there are so many varied stories about Ram. You also have examples of several birthplaces of Ram in terms of belief. Nepal’s PM is talking about one such myth,” Jha said.

He added that the latest controversy is a sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries.

“In normal times, these statements by Oli would not have attracted attention. But now the relationship between India and Nepal is not good, that’s why it’s being taken seriously. The statement would hurt the BJP because it has grown as an all-India party by using Ram and Ayodhya as symbols,” Jha said.

Ties between India and Nepal have been strained since November last year when New Delhi published a new political map claiming disputed territory as its own.

The crisis between the two neighbors — who share more than 1,800 km of border territory — reached a peak on May 8 when New Delhi announced the inauguration of a Himalayan road link which passes through the disputed area of Kalapani.


French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 7 min 45 sec ago

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.