A Muslim group in India says it will start the construction of a mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya on January 26, the day the South Asian nation celebrates its Republic Day.
The project is a part of the settlement of a case surrounding the demolition of the Babri Mosque by a Hindu mob in 1992, leading to some of the worst religious violence India has witnessed, killing more than 2,000 people, and a protracted legal battle in various courts.
Right-wing groups, including the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claimed Mughal Emperor Babur built the mosque in the 16th century at the exact site where Hindu god Lord Ram was born.
In November 2019, India’s Supreme Court handed over the site to a Hindu trust for the construction of a Ram temple, while the government-controlled Sunni Central Waqf Board was given an alternate site 25km (15 miles) away to build a mosque.
Subsequently, the board announced the formation of the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF) trust to execute the mosque’s construction.
— INDO-ISLAMIC CULTURAL FOUNDATION (@IndoIslamicCF) December 19, 2020
According to a statement issued late on Sunday, the IICF trust said work on the mosque will formally begin on January 26, India’s Republic Day, which marks the day India’s constitution came into effect in 1950.
The trust said the national flag will be hoisted on the five-acre plot of the so-called Dhannipur Mosque Project at 8:30am (03:00 GMT), followed by a tree-planting.
“It was decided that the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation will be celebrating the Republic Day of India this year with the start of the Dhannipur Mosque Project, which includes a hospital, museum, library, community kitchen, Indo-Islamic Cultural Research Center, a publication house and a mosque,” IICF secretary Athar Hussain said in the statement.
“The formal start of the project should be by plantation of tree saplings on five acres of land. As envisaged in the project, a green area, which will have plants from all over the world – from the Amazon rainforest to areas having bushfires in Australia – and from all different geographical regions of India will be developed to create awareness on the imminent threat of climate change,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, a campaign has been launched by Hindu groups to collect funds for the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Indian media reports last week said President Ram Nath Kovind donated 500,001 rupees ($6,823), triggering criticism by Muslim groups and activists over the move in an officially secular nation.
Many other BJP leaders have also contributed, with the Hindu trust saying it will also reach out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government officials for the funds.
Meanwhile, Indian media reports said nearly $13m has been collected by the trust, which said it aims to build the temple before 2024 – the year the next general elections are due.
Local media has also reported religious tensions in several places as the drive to collect funds for the temple is carried out across the country, with Hindu right-wing groups accused of raising inflammatory slogans and harassing Muslims.