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A zoo in India is facing blasphemy accusations over the names of two lions


Diptendu Dutta / ZUMA Wire / IMAGO

Two zoo lions named after a Hindu goddess and a Muslim ruler are keeping the judiciary busy in India.

The relevant court ordered the authorities in the state of West Bengal to rename the lions after a Hindu organization requested that the two animals be banned from being kept together in an enclosure.

The lioness Sita and the lion Akbar came to the zoo in the city of Siliguri through an exchange program from a neighboring country of India.

In Hinduism, Sita is the wife of Ram, who is one of the most important gods and the hero of the Indian national epic “Ramayana”.

Akbar ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent as emperor of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century.

The Hindu nationalist organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which, among other things, fights against marriages between Hindus and Muslims, also went to court against the lion couple living together in the Siliguri Zoo.

She spoke of an act of “blasphemy” with which the zoo hurt the religious feelings of Hindus.

Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya of the Kolkata High Court has now asked the authorities to rename the lions.

"These names should be avoided and dropped to avoid unnecessary controversy," he said, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Government advisor Joyjit Choudhury said that the state of West Bengal had already “thought about” giving the lions new names.

Critics accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of wanting to transform constitutionally secular India into a Hindu nationalist state and marginalize the huge Muslim minority.

Since he took office in 2014, intolerance towards India's 200 million Muslims has increased.