Nritya Gopal Das and VHP V-P Champat Rai named to top posts in Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust

Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the chief of the erstwhile Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, who earlier this month publicly slammed the Centre for not including his name in the list of nine trustees is now president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust.

The other person who missed out was VHP vice-president Champat Rai, who has now been made the trust's general secretary. Both Das and Rai were nominated by the nine trustees at the start of the first meeting on Wednesday.

 Nritya Gopal Das and VHP V-P Champat Rai named to top posts in Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust

Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, president of Ram Janm Bhoomi nyaasm, which has been entrusted with the task of building the temple. Danish Raza/Firstpost

How this happened is a fascinating tale. Remember, the powers that be were working under Supreme Court guidelines and were tasked with avoiding controversy. In early February, after Cabinet approval, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the formation of the trust, which is headquartered at Greater Kailash Part 1, the home of senior lawyer and founder trustee K Parasaran.

A highly-placed source told Firstpost it was clear from day one that Das, who merged Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and all its properties including donations with the trust, would be heading it and Rai, who had been associated with Ayodhya movement for long, would be at prominent positions.

But for some reason, perhaps to avoid leaks, Das was not informed of the plan. What must be noted is that both leaders have been named as accused by the CBI in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Since the government was acting as per the directions of the Supreme Court, it was careful to avoid any controversy or any legal challenges and thus hence chose not to name both in the initial list.

What the government did instead was to craft a provision in the notification that two trust members would be appointed by the nine trustees. Thus the government had no hand in their appointment. The three ex-officio members, one appointed by the Centre (not less than joint secretary), one by Uttar Pradesh (not less than secretary) and District Magistrate of Ayodhya were not to participate in process of naming the two new trustees.

The trust members are those closely associated with the temple movement, including Kameshwar Chaupal, a Dalit, who was among the first to lay the foundation stone in 1989, and Bimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra, an erstwhile royal of Ayodhya.

The choice to name Nripendra Mishra chairman of the committee entrusted with task of construction Ram Temple and development of 66.7 acre premises is significant. Mishra's appointment came as a surprise. He had been Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Modi for five-and-half-years.

Mishra has the right stature, administrative acumen and great deal of understanding of ground situation of Uttar Pradesh, having worked there as a former Indian Administrative Service officer at various levels, including with chief ministers Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The bhoomipujan to begin construction of the temple will be at an appropriate date after Ramnavami in early April. The initial idea of having it done on Ram Navami (birthday of Lord Ram) was abandoned because thousands of pilgrims will be in Ayodhya that day and only increase the challenges facing the administration.

The VHP and Sangh Parivar is working on a plan to energise people across the country for bhoomipujan and construction. It will be holding Sri Ram Mahotsav from 25 March to 3 April (Chaitra Navratri period). The volunteers and seers would be going to 2.85 lakh villages spread across the country, who donated bricks and money for the construction of the temple. They will invite them to participate in construction, kar sewa and contribute in any way they can.

The seers and volunteers would be carrying pictures and statues of Lord Ram, Goddess Durga and Valmikim, who Dalits revere, and who wrote Ramayana.

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2020 20:45:02 IST