American Hindu leaders: Modi abusing our religion with Ram Temple political stunts

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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“Blatant propaganda” comes as the Biden administration investigates alleged Indian government plots to kill US citizens on American soil

American Hindu leaders: Modi abusing our religion with Ram Temple political stunts

Washington D.C. 21 January 2024: Prominent Hindus today accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “weaponizing” their faith by exploiting the opening of the new Ram Temple for partisan political gain.

A Modi-led consecration ceremony will be livestreamed in Times Square at 11pm ET on January 21, 2024, as well as in other major US cities and Indian consulates around the world. The Ram Temple is being built on the ruins of a sacred medieval mosque destroyed by a Hindu nationalist mob, on a long-contested holy site in India.

Large crowds of BJP supporters are expected at the screenings. However, all four Shankaracharyas - key Hindu religious authorities- are boycotting the event because they say it does not follow proper religious procedures. Objections include the fact that Modi is not a religious leader and so not qualified to lead the ceremony and that a Hindu temple cannot be consecrated before it is completed.

Rights leaders say Modi rushing it through and fronting it himself is the latest attempt to weaponize Hinduism in the name of the BJP’s repressive nationalist ideology, ahead of national elections in May. It comes amidst a widespread crackdown on civic and media freedoms, with Modi’s party jailing opponents, stoking ethno-religious violence and stifling dissent.

As these concerns escalate, Hindus for Human Rights’ Sunita Viswanath said, “This is obviously an electoral stunt, it should not be happening in the name of my faith. Modi is not a priest, so leading this ceremony for political gain is both technically and morally wrong. This weaponization of our religion tramples what’s left of India's secular democratic values.”

Rights leaders also pointed out the dark irony of broadcasting the ceremony in an iconic New York location even as the Biden administration investigates an alleged Indian government plot to assassinate U.S. citizens in the city.

In 2021, Modi brought the Kumbh Mela—the world’s largest religious gathering - forward by one year for electioneering reasons during the deadly second wave of Covid. 4 million followers gathered in Varanasi, and almost all of them contracted Covid.

Hindu priest Sanjai Doobay said: “The kingdom of Shri Ram welcomed all, even those of different views. We must wonder whether a temple celebrating the birthplace of that which cannot be born and is everywhere does the same.”

Hindu priest Raja Bhattar said: "India was once a safe place for all faiths and communities, and Hinduism is built on pluralist philosophy. Now ‘'Jai Sri Ram', or ‘Glory to Lord Rama’ has become synonymous with the BJP's Hindutva crusade, harm to other religious communities and cheap electoral manoeuvres. Building the new temple over a Mosque is not in line with our values."

Hindu priestess Pratima Doobay said: “While the world celebrates Sri Rama returning to JanmaBhumi (his birthplace), I affirm that JanmaBhumi is home to every living being. If Sri Ram were here with us, he would advocate for every person to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Pandit Anantanand Rambachan, Vedantic scholar and Professor of Religion said:

“One of my favorite verses from the Tulsidas Ramayana is:”ramahi keval premu piara/jani leu jo jan nihara (It is only love that Ram loves; may those who wish to understand, know this.”

“There are countless examples of Modi, the BJP, and their supporters flaunting the Ram Temple as a symbol of Hindu supremacy and as a threat of further erasure of Muslims. This is a clear weaponization of Hinduism laced with anti-Muslim sentiment, and it must be called out as such.” - Safa Ahmed, IAMC Associate Director of Media & Communications

“This site in India has long stood for the perverse exploitation of religion to cause strife and bloodshed for political gain. It’s fitting that Modi should effectively launch his 2024 election campaign here. He builds temples while razing democracy,” said Ricken Patel, founder of Friends of Democracy and human rights group Avaaz.

This information has been given in a press release issued by David Kalal, Hindus for Human Rights Communications Director. Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization founded in 2019

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