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Sunday June 23, 2024

Hindu nationalists go to court over lion named after Muslim emperor in India

Akbar was Mughal emperor who extended Muslim rule over much of the Indian subcontinent

By Agencies
February 19, 2024
Vishwa Hindu Parishad members at an event in Hyderabad. — AFP/File
Vishwa Hindu Parishad members at an event in Hyderabad. — AFP/File

NEW DELHI: An Indian Hindu nationalist organisation has launched a court petition to stop two lions named after a Hindu deity and a 16th-century Muslim emperor from sharing a zoo enclosure.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a prominent rightwing Hindu organisation, went to court in the state of West Bengal after reports a lioness named Sita had been put with a lion called Akbar.

Akbar was a Mughal emperor who extended Muslim rule over much of the Indian subcontinent, a time Hindu nationalist groups consider to have been a period of slavery.

“Sita cannot stay with the Mughal emperor Akbar,” the VHP official Anup Mondal said on Sunday, suggesting it would offend religious sentiments in the Hindu-majority country.

“Such an act amounts to blasphemy and is a direct assault on the religious belief of all Hindus,” the VHP said, after having lodged a plea on Friday calling for a name change.

Critics say religious intolerance has been growing in the world’s most populous country since the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, came to power in 2014. General elections, likely to be held in April, are expected to secure Modi a third term in power.

Mondal said the lion called Akbar had previously been named after the Hindu deity Rama when he was in the neighbouring state of Tripura, which is controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party.