Hindus and their supporters in New York City celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya. A ban was imposed on the video marking the occasion due to pressure from protesting groups, which was ignored by supporters.
Around a thousand people turned up to laud the ceremony on Wednesday evening. They sang ‘bhajans’ and chanted at a traffic island in Times Square. Two groups of protesters reacted by lining up on either side to heckle them.
The Hindu displays were organised by a US-based organisation called Ram Janma Bhoomi Shilanyas Celebrations Committee (RJBSCC). Participants in the celebration distributed sweets as the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan echoed throughout Times Square.
People gathered at the venue wearing masks and many wore traditional clothes. They began arriving at Times Square 4 hours prior to the celebration which started at 7:30 pm.
Earlier, a large video of Prince Ram and the temple being built in Ayodhya was turned off because of protests from a Muslim group. The group claimed that the digital displays were political. Since Time Square displays are obligated to refrain from any political advertisements, the company turned off the displays and a ban was placed.
Later, images saying “Kashmiri Lives Matter” and “Kashmir Siege Day” flashed across screens where the Ram Janmabhoomi stream was meant to have been shown.
A group of Khalistanis and Pakistanis stood on one side of the traffic island and protesters from the South Asia Solidarity Initiative and the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) stood on the other. They shouted slogans flanking the celebration.
Earlier in the day, the IAMC hired a truck to circle the Times Square that displayed images of the Babri Masjid which was demolished in 1992.
RJBSCC Chairman Jagdish Sewhani firmly defended the celebrations.
“We have come to Times Square to celebrate the historic occasion of the start of the building of the sacred temple. We are not bothered by the display being shut down because we are full of joy that our goal of seeing a temple build on the holy ground is becoming a reality.”
The chairman also tweeted a nine-second video of a display from the Times Square celebrations on Twitter.
“I was so proud to see our Ram Mandir and Ramji in Times Square today. Let’s celebrate this once in a lifetime event tonight at 7.30 p.m.,” he also tweeted.
Soon after the tweet was sent, Twitter blanked out the video with the message: “The following media includes potentially sensitive content.”
Some have accused the social media platform of following ideological double standards of favouring the left while censoring those on the right. In 2018, on a visit to India, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posed with a poster with the message, “Smash Brahminical patriarchy”.