Hindus are set to celebrate the groundbreaking of a long-awaited Ram temple at a disputed site in northern India, reports AP.
Muslims say they have no firm plans yet to build a new mosque at an alternative site they were granted to replace the one torn down by Hindu hard-liners decades ago.
Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony has been arranged following a ruling by India’s Supreme Court last November favouring the building of a Hindu temple on the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.
Hindus believe their god Ram was born at the site and claim that the Muslim Emperor Babur built a mosque on top of a temple there.
The 16th century Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by Hindu hard-liners in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left some 2,000 people dead.
The Supreme Court's verdict paved the way for the building of a temple in place of the demolished mosque. The court also ordered that Muslims be given 5 acres (2 hectares) of land to build a new mosque at a nearby site.
But the ruling disappointed Muslims, who comprise around 14 percent of Hindu-majority India’s 1.3 billion people.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay five silver bricks as the temple foundation.
More than 100,000 oil lamps will light up the city in celebration, said chief priest Satyendra Das.
A security clampdown, however, will allow only limited entry to Hindu devotees into the city because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, a priest and 15 police officers in the area tested positive for the virus.
Hindu hard-liners began preparing for the new temple in the 1990s, and prefabricated blocks of huge, ornately carved stones displaying Hindu mythology are ready for once the construction work starts. The construction is expected to take 3 1/2 years.
Zafaryab Jilani, who represents the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said that while the Muslim community is not satisfied with the Supreme Court's ruling, it will respect the decision and not protest the building of the temple.
Saeed Naqvi, a political analyst, said he didn’t expect any trouble between Hindus and Muslims over the issue.
“Muslims by themselves have learned the hard lesson that if they oppose this issue, it only helps Hindutva (Hindu ideology),” he said.
Several prominent Muslim writers, academics and activists, who didn’t want to be identified, refused to discuss the issue, suggesting that the community was resigned to the new reality.
But some expressed fear that the new temple could embolden Hindu nationalists to target two other mosques in Uttar Pradesh.
“The Modi government should assure Muslims that Hindu outfits will not ask for the construction of temples in Varanasi and Mathura after demolishing existing mosques there,” said Iqbal Ansari, the main litigant in the Supreme Court case.
The Gyanvapi mosque in the Uttar Pradesh city of Varanasi is in the complex of the Kashi Vishwanath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
In Mathura, another city in the state, the Shahi Idgah mosque stands adjacent to the temple complex that marks the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna.
Hindu organizations say both structures were built by razing previously existing temples.
The authorities have clamped a curfew in many parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday ahead of the revocation anniversary of the region’s special status.
August 5 is the first anniversary of India’s controversial decision to revoke the disputed region’s semi-autonomy, reports AP.
Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, a civil administrator, said the security lockdown was imposed in the region’s main city of Srinagar following information about protests planned by anti-India groups to mark August 5 as “black day”.
Police and paramilitary soldiers drove through neighbourhoods and went to people’s homes warning them to stay indoors.
Government forces erected steel barricades and laid razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections. The curfew will be enforced Tuesday and Wednesday, Choudhary said in a government order.
Last year on the day, India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi downgraded Jammu-Kashmir state and divided it into two federally governed territories.
Since then, New Delhi has brought in a slew of new laws which locals say are aimed at shifting the demographics in the Muslim-majority region, many of whom want independence from India or unification with Pakistan.
The status of Kashmir has been a key dispute between Pakistan and India since the two split after the end of British colonial rule. They each control part of Kashmir and have fought two wars over their rival claims.
Initially, the anti-India movement in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir was largely peaceful, but after a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent, Kashmiris launched a full-blown armed revolt in 1989.
After the August 5 decision, Indian authorities enforced an information blackout and a harsh security clampdown in Kashmir for months. Thousands of Kashmiri youth, pro-freedom leaders and politicians who have traditionally supported Indian rule were arrested. Hundreds of them are still incarcerated.
As some of the restrictions were eased, India enforced another harsh lockdown in March to combat the spread of coronavirus epidemic, deepening the social and economic crisis in the restive region.
The health authorities of India has reported 52,972 fresh cases in the last 24 hours on Monday, bringing the total cases to 1,803,695.
According to data released by the Health ministry, some 771 people have died during this period, taking the total deaths to 38,135.
A total of 1,186,203 people have been cured and discharged across the country so far, while 579,357 active cases are being treated in hospitals, report Xinhua.
India is focusing on ramping up testing of samples.
A total of 20,202,858 samples have been tested till Sunday, with 381,027 samples tested on Sunday alone.
Monday was the fifth consecutive day when more than 50,000 fresh cases were found in the country.
They included Home Minister Amit Shah, Governor of the southern state Tamil Nadu Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister of southern state Karnataka B.S. Yediyurappa, president of Uttar Pradesh unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Swatantra Dev Singh.
On Sunday, a female minister in northern state of Uttar Pradesh died of COVID-19. She was the first serving minister and fourth lawmaker across all states to die of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, as the country is witnessing a single-day spike of over 50,000 cases over the past five days, the situation has improved in the capital state of Delhi. Once the second most-affected state after Maharashtra, it now stands at eighth position in terms of single day spike in cases.
India's Home Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's closest political ally-bar-none, ex-president of the BJP Amit Shah tested positive for COVID-19, he himself confirmed through a tweet on Sunday.
He appealed to all those who came into his contact to test themselves for COVID-19.
"Experiencing some symptoms I got myself tested for COVID-19 and have been found positive. I am feeling healthy but on the advice of doctors I am admitting myself to a hospital," tweeted Shah.
He advised those who came into his contact in the past few days to immediately isolate themselves and get tested.
Earlier in the day, a lady minister in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh had died of COVID-19 infection.
India’s coronavirus caseload crossed 1.75 million with another spike of 54,735 in the past 24 hours.
The new cases are down from 57,118 on Saturday.
The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 853 deaths for a total of 37,364.
Randeep Guleria, a top government expert, said that New Delhi and Mumbai may have crossed their peak levels with declining trends.
The month of July alone has accounted for more than 1.1 million cases in India.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the case fatality rate was progressively reducing and currently stands at 2.18%, one of the lowest globally. Out of the total active cases, only 0.28% are on ventilators, 1.61% need intensive care support and 2.32% oxygen support.