Why can no one explain Lord Shiva
India: religion in the election campaign
Traditionally, you are the first to be allowed on the water. Sadhus, holy men. Ash-covered, naked hermits have come to the Kumbh Mela from all parts of India. The holy festival of the Hindus.
Dive into the Ganges, ten degrees water temperature, in one of the dirtiest rivers in the world. But that doesn't bother any of the believers. According to a Hindu legend, these days the divine nectar that dripped onto the earth thousands of years ago is being awakened to new energy. A bath in it gives salvation and immortality. Many sadhus are worshiped. India is a deeply religious country: 80 percent of the population are Hindus. The boundaries between belief and spectacle are often fluid. Sadhu Saavan Bharti explains: "Of course: in a way it all looks bizarre. This is what sets us Indians apart from the rest of the world. People from outside may find us crazy. But we just show that we love and worship Lord Shiva."
100 million believers
That is exactly why ordinary believers come to the Kumbh Mela. 100 million people are expected in the next seven weeks - the largest religious festival in the world. The government also wants to benefit from this. It's election campaign in India. Larger-than-life Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets every hundred meters. Supporters of his Hindu nationalist party BJP are campaigning. A functionary agitates for the controversial construction of a large temple. Ambarish Singh, World Hindu Council, VHP: "We have been fighting for this temple for decades and no other party supports this project like the BJP. Of course, the party benefits from it in reverse."
100 kilometers further: The temple is to be built here - Ayodhya, the city in which, according to legend, the god-king Ram was born. Until 1992 a mosque from the 16th century stood at his presumed birthplace. Hindu fundamentalists incited against the Muslim place of worship, and today's ruling BJP party also incited the masses. In December 1992, a mob stormed the mosque and tore it down. There were riots all over India and more than 1,000 people died. A temple was to be built on the site of the former mosque. The security authorities prevent this to this day.
The supposed place of birth of Rams 500 meters further today resembles a high-security area, cameras are strictly forbidden there. Santosh Dube was one of the ringleaders in 1992; he was imprisoned several times. We are not allowed to go further than this barrier with him: "At that time we went down the street to the mosque and tore it down. It was a symbol of the oppression of the Hindus by the Muslims. I am proud that I did that. "
On the outskirts of Ayodhya, the Hindu extremists have already laid everything ready for the temple to be built. Santosh Dube leads groups of visitors around, shows what the Ram Temple should look like and collects donations. But of all things the Hindu nationalist government of the BJP has only half-heartedly supported the project in recent years. The dispute over whether the planned temple site belongs to the Muslims or the Hindus is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. This angered the extremists.
Dispute over the temple building
Santosh Dube: "The guys who were elected in 2014 on behalf of the Ram Temple are no longer serious. They should remember that we Hindus voted for the BJP and not the Supreme Court."
The Hindu nationalist ruling party around Prime Minister Modi is alarmed. A tight result is expected in the spring parliamentary elections. It is inconvenient when, of all people, the hardliners rebel. At this week's election convention of the BJP, Party President Amit Shah Besserung praised: "We promised before the 2014 election that we would build the Ram Temple in this exact place. The BJP will make sure that it happens. That should be decided no illusions. "
He has no illusions: The Muslim Haji Mehboob lived next to the mosque in Ayodhya. His family was evicted from there and now lives in the suburbs. He has initiated the legal process and wants the property to be returned to the Muslims. Since then he has been under police protection: "We Muslims have to pay for it if the Hindus are incited like this. It will divide India. I urge the BJP leaders to resolve the dispute over the mosque peacefully. That would be in the interests of the entire nation. "
But men like Santosh Dube are not at all interested in a peaceful solution. He proudly shows souvenirs from the time when they destroyed the mosque. At that time they would have put the Muslims in their place. The government should now finally officially declare India a Hindu state, he demands: "The Muslims should submit to our feelings. Otherwise they will get the treatment they deserve."
The BJP government is happy to show itself as the guardian of Hinduism before the election, including at the Kumbh Mela. Until a few weeks ago, the megacity in which the mega-event takes place was still called Allahabad - a Muslim name. Now it has been renamed Prayagraj: "place of worship", Hindu gods of course.
Author: Peter Gerhardt, ARD New Delhi
Status: 09/12/2019 10:51 p.m.
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