Indian PM Modi lays foundation of Ram temple at Babri Mosque site
Indian PM Narendra Modi unveiled a plaque on Wednesday to kick off the construction of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya on a spot where Babri Mosque was demolished nearly 30 years ago.
Modi offered prayers to nine stone blocks with Lord Ram inscribed on it amid chanting Hindu religious hymns to symbolize the start of the temple’s construction, which is expected to take 3.5 years to complete.
“I’m grateful to witness history being made. Crores millions of Indians can’t believe that this day has come. The entire nation is in the spell of Lord Ram. Ram is an emblem of India’s unity in diversity,” Modi said in a speech.
Modi shared the stage with the head of the RSS, the militaristic Hindutva group that is the parent to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and which Modi joined as a young man.
“It’s an emotional and historical moment. The wait has been worthwhile,” said Lal Krishna Advani, a 92-year-old leader of the governing BJP who was at the forefront of the party’s temple campaign in the ’90s.
Organizers said the ceremony was scheduled on an astrologically auspicious date for Hindus. Wednesday also marked a year since the Modi government revoked the semi-autonomous status of Indian-occupied Kashmir.
The symbolism was impossible to miss since the BJP had long pledged in its manifesto to strip the occupied region of Kashmir of its autonomy and build a temple to the Hindu deity Ram where Babri Mosque once stood.
The main roads were barricaded, and about 3,000 paramilitary soldiers were guarding Ayodhya, where all shops and businesses are closed.
“Had this function been held on normal days, all these streets would have been blocked with people. Crores of people would have come to Ayodhya to see this historic event,” temple priest Hari Mohan said.
Only 175 religious saints, priests, and community representatives were invited to the ceremony.
Water from Indian rivers in 2,000 pots sent by various Hindu temples and Sikh shrines was poured at the site.
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