Ayodhya dispute: Temple town on edge as Shiv Sena, VHP, RSS raise pitch for construction of Ram Temple
In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, there is presently an atmosphere of fear, as agitations are taking place seeking the construction of a Ram Temple.
Editor’s note: Since the BJP assumed power in 2014, calls to build a temple for Ram in Ayodhya have become more strident; they have been amplified following the installation of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. A large collection of Hindutva groups will assemble in Ayodhya on 25 November to intensify the campaign further. Firstpost will run a series of ground reports to document this movement.
In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, there is presently an atmosphere of fear. On 25 November, about 2.5 lakh volunteers, kar sevaks and workers from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena and several other organisations will assemble in the temple town for a "Dharam Sabha” to seek the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
While the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, the groups which have organised the protest, and some of the parties to the case, have expressed their impatience and indicated that they may not wait for the apex court's verdict.
In an interview to this reporter, Mahant Nrityagopal Das, Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas chief and one of the parties to the case in the Supreme Court, initially denied any knowledge of the ongoing agitation in Ayodhya. However, he subsequently said that the media is not portraying the correct picture on the issue.
“Who says that there is any ongoing movement? I don’t agree with this. I see devotees coming to pay their respects to Lord Ram,” said Das. He further said, “You say that there is fear in Ayodhya. I don’t agree with this. Those who are asking for security (a reference to Iqbal Ansari, a litigant in the case) are just putting on a show."
He further said, “Hindus must see how Ram Lalla is living inside a tent. They should come forward to build a temple.”
Das also remarked, “The state and central governments should do their jobs, and so should the Supreme Court. They should not interfere in religious matters. We are saints and religious leaders; it is our job to lead people on religious matters.”
With Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's visit to Ayodhya, an attempt is being made to bring Hindutva forces under one umbrella. While the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has accorded state guest status to Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief has been taking on the BJP on the Ram Temple issue in the past couple of weeks.
Thackeray said to the media, “The issue of the Ram Temple is raked up before every election. I will seek an answer as to for how many more elections will the people be fooled with the slogan 'mandir wahin banayenge'.”
"SC must not test our patience"
Strange as it may sound, VHP functionary Triloki Nath Pandey has been appearing in court as the "next friend" of the Ram Lalla in Ayodhya. Pandey said that the ongoing agitation in Ayodhya is crucial for the construction of a Ram Temple, and stressed on the need to create awareness among Hindus on the issue.
“The Supreme Court must not test our patience,” he said, and added, "There is a need to change the Constitution so that it ensures the interests of the Hindu population.”
Pandey further said that he believes Modi will take steps for the construction of the Ram Temple, and asserted, "We are ready to start building the temple at any moment, and are ready to do whatever it takes. We are not followers of Gandhi, but of Golwalkar and Godse.”
On 17 October, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had said in the Banaras Hindu University that one Ram Temple can always be built on the non-disputed land — which is next to the disputed one—in Ayodhya. According to sources, the central government may announce the construction of the temple on the same land in December, after the results of the Vidhan Sabha elections in five states.
A few months ago, a media report said that a large number of stones for the construction of the temple were coming in to Ayodhya from Rajasthan. The number of trucks coming into Ayodhya was reported to have increased several fold in the span of a few weeks. On this, a VHP functionary said on the condition of anonymity, "The number of stones which have been coming in to Ayodhya has always been roughly the same. This leads to the question as to why then such a report came out."
The functionary subsequently gave the answer — "At various points, the VHP tries to bring its Ram Mandir movement into the news by various measures. This report was one such example."
For the past few years, Mahant Gyan Das, the mahant at Hanumangarhi, has been trying to organise talks for Hindu-Muslim peace at Ayodhya. He has also been helping to renovate an old mosque in Ayodhya, and holds an iftar event every year during the month of Ramzan. His approach has been questioned and condemned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Gyan Das wants a Ram Temple at the disputed site, and says, “It was never a mosque, it was always a temple. Anything other than the Ram Temple cannot be built at the site. The place belongs to Ram Lalla only.”
However, he adds, “But a temple is a place of peace; it should not be seen as a place of victory. And such a place of peace can only be built with the willingness of both the communities."
Gyan Das also thinks that the ongoing agitation has been launched only for political gains.
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