India PM Modi inaugurates Hindu temple on razed mosque site

India’s PM Narendra Modi has inaugurated a grand temple to Hindu god Ram in the flashpoint city of Ayodhya.

He said it heralded “a new era” for India – the temple replaces a 16th-Century mosque torn down by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking riots in which nearly 2,000 people died.

Top film stars and cricketers were among guests at the event in Ayodhya.

But some Hindu seers and most of the opposition boycotted it, saying Mr Modi was using it for political gain.

General elections are due in India in the next few months and Mr Modi’s political rivals say the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be seeking votes in the temple’s name in a country where 80% of the population is Hindu.

Critics have also accused the government of exploiting a religious celebration in a country which – according to its constitution – is secular. For Muslims, India’s biggest minority, the event evoked fear and painful memories, members of the community in Ayodhya told the BBC in the run-up to Monday’s ceremony.

Televised live, it showed Mr Modi performing religious rituals inside the temple’s sanctum along with priests and Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological fountainhead of Hindu nationalist parties.

“Today’s date will go down in history,” Mr Modi said after the event. “After years of struggle and countless sacrifices, Lord Ram has arrived [home]. I want to congratulate every citizen of the country on this historic occasion.”

The temple has been constructed at a cost of $217m (£170m), funded from private donations. Only the ground floor was opened – the rest is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The construction work is part of a revamp for the city, estimated to cost more than $3bn.

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