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Modi tours divisive temple town

Published : Sunday, 31 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 187

AYODHYA, Dec 30: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited a holy town on Saturday to open fresh transport links catering to pilgrims for a new temple steeped in a history of sectarian violence.
Ayodhyas new shrine to Lord Ram will be formally unveiled next month on the grounds where a centuries-old mosque once stood, before it was torn down by Hindu zealots more than three decades ago.
Millions are expected to visit the temple each year and its construction was a longstanding pledge of Modis ruling party.
"Today, if any country in the world today wants to reach great heights, it has to take care of its legacy," Modi told an audience of thousands at a city rally.
"This is the new India that will both preserve its culture and focus on economic growth."
Huge crowds turned out to witness Modis procession through the city, formally to open a new airport and upgraded road and rail services. But his visit also had the air of a campaign stop, coming just months before national elections he is widely expected to win.
The Ayodhya temple, standing 50 metres (164 feet) in height and built at an estimated cost of $240 million, has helped buttress his image as a custodian of Indias majority faith ahead of the vote.  Such is the excitement around the project that Modi appealed to Hindus to refrain from visiting the site on the day he is slated to preside over its inauguration next month.     —AFP

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