MATHURA: In the streets around a revered religious site in the Indian city of Mathura, where a temple and a mosque stand side-by-side, the handful of Muslim restaurants that remain are mostly empty or shuttered.
A ban on meat last year by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, a Hindu monk who issued the order on religious grounds, has decimated their trade.
Now the saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath, up for re-election in key state polls next month, has turned his attention to the temple itself, suggesting he will champion the Hindu cause in a long-running dispute with Muslims over who owns the site.
The issue has become a central part of the ruling party’s campaign to extend its grip on power in Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people and the bellwether of national politics.
Hindus and Muslims have argued for decades over who should control the site, echoing other disputes in India that have, on occasion, flared into deadly riots between the two communities.
While communal violence in India is sporadic, clashes erupted across the country in early 2020 over a citizenship law that Muslims said was discriminatory. Dozens of people died.
Now mention of the Mathura dispute during campaign rallies and on social media has the city’s Muslims worried, according to interviews with more than 20 residents.
“An old case which has been settled … is being revived because we have a new, triumphalist Hinduism,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of several books on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist movement.