FaithWorld

Indian court to rule on Ayodhya mosque row on Thursday

ayodhyaAn Indian court will rule on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots that killed some 2,000 people.

Those riots were some of the country’s worst religious violence since Partition in 1947 and a verdict on the case may spark more disturbances between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Ayodhya town is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

“The verdict will be announced on 30th (September) at 3:30 p.m. (1000 GMT),” said Subodh Sahay, registrar of the court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Read the full story here. See also Q+A – India braces for politically charged mosque verdict.

Indian Supreme Court orders Ayodhya mosque verdict postponed

ayodhya 2 (Photo: Rapid Action Forces personnel patrol in Ayodhya, September 22, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Allahabad High Court to delay a potentially explosive verdict on whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday came after an appeal to the stay on the judgment, saying the matter could be settled out of court. The Supreme Court will meet on Sept. 28 to decide on the appeal and commentators said the date of the actual verdict by the high court — originally due on Friday — was now unclear.

The central government has been on alert for any fallout from the verdict, appealing for calm. It banned public meetings in the state and stopped all bulk mobile text messages since they could be used to spread rumours and plan riots.

India bans bulk text messages before Ayodhya mosque verdict

ayodhya 1 (Photo: Indian policemen patrol in Ayodhya, September 23, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

India has banned bulk mobile text messaging for three days to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism as authorities prepare for a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus.

A high court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots, when some 2000 were killed. It was one of the worst outbreaks communal violence since the partition in 1947.

The government statement gave no reasons for the order, but a senior security official with knowledge of the order cited security reasons before the court verdict.

Ghost of Hindu-Muslim riots haunts upcoming Babri mosque verdict in India

ayodhyaA court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a judgement haunted by memories of a 1992 riot, some of the country’s worst violence since the partition.

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The verdict could prove a major political quandary for the government led by the Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots. A verdict in favour of the Hindus would force the government to uphold the verdict, making it unpopular with Muslims, a key vote bloc. A ruling for the Muslims would mean the government would have to push Hindu groups out of the site, a political minefield.

New rabbi for Mumbai Jewish centre attacked in 2008

narimanIt was almost two years ago that Islamist militants attacked Mumbai and killed at least 166 people. Among them were six Jews, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. Most non-Jewish readers probably had no idea what a Brooklyn-based Jewish couple was doing there. Many Jews would have known right away — they were running the Chabad House, one of a worldwide network of Jewish centres run by Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement devoted to supporting Jewish life wherever it may be found. (Photo: Indian commandos atop Chabad centre after explosion during militant siege, 28 Nov 2008/Punit Paranjpe)

The news angle to this story is that the Mumbai centre has a new rabbi, just in time for the High Holidays, as reported in my feature here. Rabbi Chanoch Gechtman arrived there recently with his wife Leiky to take up the challenge of filling Holtzberg’s shoes. “I still can’t quite fathom that they are not here, they were such extraordinary people,” he said in an email from Mumbai. After all the damage to the original building, they’ve moved to another building not far away, but the address is not advertised on their website for understandable reasons.

gechtmanThis could be a daunting assignment, but Gechtman, 25, seemed eager to get to work. “People really believe in this city. It’s a place with a lot of energy; it’s full of life,” he said. “There is really an endless amount of work to be accomplished. And the Holtzbergs set the bar very high.” The work is literally endless — a couple that goes out on an assignment like this is expected to stay permanently. The commitment for the “shluchim,” as these emissaries are called, is supposed to be for life. And it’s a job for both the rabbi and his wife.  Running a Chabad House means offering services such as kosher Sabbath dinners, Torah classes, youth programmes, day care facilities, summer camps and women’s ritual baths. It’s an open house for any Jew who wants to participate — locals, expatriates or tourists passing through the city.

FACTBOX – Lashkar-e-Taiba charity wing in Pakistan flood relief work

dawaThe Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the humanitarian wing of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, has been providing relief to those hit by Pakistan’s floods.

It is operating in flood-hit areas under a different name, the Falah-e-Insaniyat, after the JuD was blacklisted by the United Nations following the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, which was blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan has said  it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.

United States Agency for International Development head Rajiv Shah toured a camp run by the Falah-e-Insaniyat on Wednesday.

from India Insight:

Are there too many sacred topics in India?

Protests and television debates on the apex court's decision to OK  the publication of a book on Maratha ruler Shivaji, banned in 2004 by the Maharashtra government, has put India back in the spotlight on the question of freedom of expression.

India is secular and a democracy but a country with a billon-plus population -- consisting of hundreds of tribes, clans and castes following myriad beliefs -- can be pretty fickle when it comes to defining 'sensitive' topics and easily susceptible to parochial politics.

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The list of subjects considered "sacred" in the country include the extended Gandhi family, Ambedkar, Periyar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Veer Savarkar and maybe a few thousand more people, said an editorial in the 'Mint' daily.

Hindu party BJP wants beef ban at 2010 Commonwealth Games in India

gamesThe Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party in the Indian parliament, wants to ban beef from the menu at this year’s Commonwealth Games in New Dehli on Oct. 3-14 to showcase the country’s “cultural values and age-old traditions”.

The cow is worshipped in India and and a majority of Hindus do not eat beef. The slaughter of cattle is also banned in several states. (Photo: The New Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi, October 3, 2009/Parth Sanyal)

Rajnath Singh, a senior member of the BJP, demanded the ban in a letter to the organising committee of the  Games, the DNA newspaper reported on Thursday.  “Cow is considered sacred in India. This thought has been integral to our cultural ethos for ages,” the paper quoted from the former BJP president’s letter.

Afghan Hindus and Sikhs grapple with uncertain future

kabul view (Photo: Kabul, December 30, 2009/Marko Djurica)

They thrived long before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and for a long time dominated the country’s economy, but Sikh and Hindu Afghans now find themselves struggling for survival.

“We have no shelter, no land and no authority,” says Awtar Singh, a senator and the only non-Muslim voice in Afghanistan’s parliament. “No one in the government listens to us, but we have to be patient, because we have no other options,” says the 47-year-old Sikh.

In a brief idyll in 1992, after the fall of the Moscow backed-government but before civil war erupted, there were around 200,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan compared with around just a few thousand today.

from India Insight:

India must ask: where is the honour in killing?

Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for "honour killings" days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called "honour" killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.

An Indian brideThe killings, in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, brought the tragic and shameful story of honour killings closer home to Delhi residents, who had so far dismissed the rising instances of these killings as a feature of rural India, equating them to a more traditional and conservative India they claim not to inhabit.

The clash between tradition and modernity is not new and is not unique to India, where more than two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas, and where more than half the population is below the age of 25 years.