Nepali Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli on Monday claimed that Hindu god Ram was born in Nepal and not India and real ‘Ayodhya’ lies in Nepal, not India amid strained relations between two neighbors. Prime Minister Oli gave this statement without any concrete evidence to support his claim, stoking a possible controversy.
Speaking at an event organized at his residence in Kathmandu, Oli accused New Delhi of cultural aggression. He also said that Nepal has become a victim of cultural encroachment. He accused India of manipulating history and culture by creating fake Ayodhya in India. He said that Lord Ram was Nepali who was born in Ayodhya, which lies near Thori of Birgunj in Nepal.
Prime Minister Oli’s remark came at a time when Nepal-India relations seem to be going downhill and it can further escalate the tensions between the two South Asian neighbors. His bizarre comments which are not diplomatically appropriate can hurt the religious sentiments of millions of people.
As mentioned in Ramayan, Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram for around 3000 years. However, due to a lack of concrete evidence, the debate has been raging for years. Ramayan, written by Valmiki is just one of the over 300 tellings of the epic. Due to the lack of archaeological evidence, every new telling of this epic is equally valid. But this new telling by Nepal’s Prime Minister at a time when the relation between the two countries is going low, can further provoke India and ruin the environment for bilateral talks. The issue of Ayodhya is dealt with much sensitivity in India. Recently, a decade-long controversy was settled in India’s Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Ram Mandir, giving alternated 5-acre land to Muslims to build Mosque. The diplomatic relation between Nepal and India is going down but people of two neighboring nations still have good relations. Oli’s comments can hurt the sentiments of many Indians and it can also affect the relations between people of the two neighbors.
Recent border disputes between India and Nepal isn’t solved yet. The Himalayan nation recently published a new political map showing the regions of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as part of its sovereign territory. Nepal’s government endorsed an amendment bill to update its political map displaying the contested areas. The move to release a new map came after its southern neighbor inaugurated a newly-built road connecting India to China via Lipulek, as part of the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra. The Himalayan nations claim that the road traverses its territory. India even perceived Nepal as a proxy of China in the recent move. There has been a deadlock with dialogue to solve this issue.
At this sensitive and crucial time, such insensitive comments can ruin the environment for dialogues. Prime Minister Oli is facing a crisis in his party and if he is commenting to raise religious and nationalistic sentiments to fight his opponents in his party, then it is not the right time. It will further deepen the tensions between the two neighbors. This time, he is mixing nationalism with religions threatening the good relations of people of the two countries.
This is a crucial time when the two countries should be united to fight the coronavirus pandemic. They should also resolve border disputes with proper dialogues. Such kind of comments can be harmful to creating a suitable environment for dialogues. Both countries should solve their strained relations through diplomatic channels and dialogues before it’s too late.
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