Indian Hindus appalled by lion Akbar living with lioness Sita: 'This is blasphemy'

Indian Hindus appalled by lion Akbar living with lioness Sita: 'This is blasphemy'

A lioness and her cub in the wildlife sanctuary of Gir National Park in Gujarat, India.AP photo

Akbar and Sita stay at a safari park in Siliguri, in the Indian state of West Bengal. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an ideological organization affiliated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, filed a lawsuit against the safari park and the West Bengal district last week. According to the VHP, lions should be separated or given different names. The court in Kolkata will hear the application on Tuesday.

“Sita cannot live with the Mughal Emperor Akbar,” VHP spokesman Anup Mondal told AFP news agency on Sunday, as that would be insulting to Hindus. Hindu nationalists view the Mughal period (16th to 19th centuries) as a period when Indian Hindus lived in Islamic slavery. The VHP believes that Sita's living with Akbar “amounts to blasphemy and is a direct attack on the religious sentiments of all Hindus”.

Hindu nationalists suspect foul play. According to VHP, Akbar was still called Rama when he lived in a zoo in the neighboring state of Tripura, which is ruled by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. His name is said to have changed only when he moved to West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress is in power.

According to West Bengal authorities, the names have not been changed. However, the animals have already been separated for the purpose of the lawsuit.

Critics say political and religious intolerance in India has increased sharply since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. In general elections scheduled for April-May, Modi is expected to win an unprecedented third term in office.

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India and Assad

Leo often leads the discussion in India. The animal is Prime Minister Modi's beloved mascot. The Prime Minister comes from Gujarat, the state that is home to the last population of Asiatic lions in the world.

Modi likes to be introduced at political rallies with the roar of a lion. In 2014, he made the lion a campaign symbol for Indian manufacturing. A year later, he wanted to declare the lion the national animal of India, over the tiger – which had been designated as such by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1972.

Two years ago, there was a row over a bronze replica of Sarnath's 2,500-year-old Ashoka Pillar – with four lions facing the four cardinal directions – on the roof of New Delhi's new Parliament building. According to the opposition, the four lions are not graceful and regal in design, but extremely powerful and aggressive, as a symbol of Modi's Hindu nationalist policy. The government rejected this view as nonsense.

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