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The student news site of Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas

WINGSPAN

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International Insight: the story of the Ram Mandir

From+Europe+to+Asia%2C+South+America+to+Africa%2C+and+all+the+way+to+Australia%2C+Wingspan+staff+reporter+Sindhuja+Pannuri+provides+her+insight+on+international+events+in+this+weekly+blog.+
Sindhuja Pannuri
From Europe to Asia, South America to Africa, and all the way to Australia, Wingspan staff reporter Sindhuja Pannuri provides her insight on international events in this weekly blog.

The construction of the new Ram Mandir in Uttar Pradesh, India, is cause for celebration for Hindus worldwide. But the history of the Ram Mandir is a lot more complex, ripe with generational and religious divides that caused sectarian violence in India.

The Ram Mandir, meaning Ram Temple in English, is a tribute to the Hindu god Rama. Built in the city of Ayodhya, the temple is said to be in the exact birthplace of Rama. Ayodhya is also where Rama returned after slaying the demon Ravana, as detailed in the Ramayana, one of Hinduism’s most important religious texts. Essentially, the location that this temple is being built is extremely important, as it is personal to Rama’s story, and those of devoted Hindus.

Thousands of Hindus are pictured at a religious ceremony for the Ram Mandir. Located in Ayodhya, the Ram Mandir is a temple dedicated to Rama, whom Hindus believe is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. (Prime Minister’s Office (GODL-India), GODL-India <https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf>, via Wikimedia Commons)

However, before the Ram Mandir, the Babri Masjid Mosque stood tall in the exact place, built in the 16th century BC when India was under Mughal rule. It was demolished by Hindu nationalists in 1992, leading to a surge in violence against the Muslim population in Ayodhya. The destruction of the mosque saw immediate plans to build a temple replacing it, spearheaded by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the BJP, leads on a heavily Hindu nationalist platform, raising further questions about the unfair and often prejudiced treatment of Indian Muslims.

The temple is also a well played political strategy by Modi. Gunning for reelection for his third term this year, Modi’s explicit support and hand in the Ram Mandir’s construction means unyielding support from India’s Hindu population. None of it would be possible without the political and economic resources that Modi has to make this happen, and the citizens are well aware of it, praising Modi for his work.

The completion of the Ram Mandir leads to two main perspectives, directly in conflict with each other.

Some see this as India taking back its heritage from years of foreign subjugation, as the Mughal Empire, too, tore down temples to build mosques in their place.

Others see it as furthering the divide between Indian Hindus and Muslims, encouraging majority rule and disregarding the Muslim minority.

The truth exists somewhere in the gray area. While the reclamation of ancient history isn’t a bad thing, it shouldn’t come at the cost of modern citizens. India has had a long history of foreign rule, which has led to a large variety of people living within its borders. But we are no longer in the 16th century, where leaders must only be tolerable towards one religion. In the modern era, India must learn to serve both its Hindu majority and Muslim minority population.

The Ram Mandir is not an outright call for Hindu nationalism – in fact, it is a cause for prayer and celebration as Lord Rama is welcomed home. But its construction dredges up painful memories of sectarian violence and foreign subjugation, leading to recent spikes in violence against Ayodhya’s Muslim population. It represents India’s larger historic issue of the push-pull between its two biggest religious groups. Retaliation being the only reaction is no longer acceptable – the divide must be bridged. We cannot let history repeat itself, in which one group rises to prosperity at the expense of another. India is better than that. There’s space in Ayodhya for a mosque and temple – Hinduism and Islam can coexist.

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About the Contributor
Sindhuja Pannuri, Staff Reporter
Sindhuja (Sindhu) Pannuri is a senior entering her second year of Wingspan staff. At school, she is captain of the varsity debate team and President of Youth and Government. In her free time, she reads books to escape reality and enjoys boxing in the ring. She’s so excited for what this year will hold!

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