The arrival of a fresh shipment of pink sandstone in the premises of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Ayodhya, after a gap of eight years, purportedly for the construction of a Ram Mandir, has got the temple pot boiling once again.
On Sunday, two truck-loads of pink sandstone from Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district arrived at the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas Karyashala, the premises of the VHP, pushing the administration on alert.
Mahant Nritya Gopal Das of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, a VHP-run trust, then performed a “shila puja” on the stones.The VHP, on its part, saw as routine what the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the Congress saw with consternation as a likely attempt to polarise the State that goes to polls early in 2017.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said he has directed senior officials, including chief secretary Alok Ranjan, to take steps to maintain law and order and communal harmony in the State, while keeping a tab on rumour-mongering elements. “The matter is in the Supreme Court and the State government is bound to obey its order,” Mr. Yadav said.
While Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pramod Tiwari hit out at the VHP for “remembering Lord Ram only when elections approached”, BSP supremo Mayawati said it was the responsibility of the Samajwadi Party government to maintain peace and communal harmony. On record, State BJP leaders maintained distance from the issue, but in private they said the Ram Mandir issue would be “crucial” to the party’s 2017 campaign.
“The time has come for the construction of a grand temple at the birthplace of Sri Ram. We waited for long. With the Modi government in power, we have got positive signals that the Mandir would be constructed,” said Mr. Nritya Gopal. Though the VHP did not issue any date, the right-wing organisation said it would intensify its stone transferring drive in coming months.
VHP joint-general secretary Surendra Jain told The Hindu that this was in response to a call made by Sants a year back. “There were fewer stones than required; so they are being brought in. We need more stones for a temple whenever we can construct it. We have asked the Centre for a law to facilitate the construction of a temple,” he said.
About 2.25 lakh cubic feet of stones are required for the temple, of which half has been already stored at the VHP headquarters in the temple town, the outfit said. The VHP has claimed that the stones were donated by Hindus across the country. Work at the VHP karyashala had stopped in 2007 when the supply of the stones from Rajasthan came to a halt. “That supply is restored now. Till the stones are collected, how will the mandir be constructed?” asked VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma, describing the new shipment as “routine.”
However, in confidence, VHP and BJP leaders admitted that the issue would be further raked up as the polls near, but cautiously as not to hurt the image of the Narendra Modi-led Centre.
“We have had to answer many questions. Definitely, it will be crucial (as polls approach). But things would be done cautiously,” a senior BJP leader said. While the administration has stepped up security and the situation is being closely monitored, locals flayed the VHP for trying to fan communal tension. The oldest litigant in the Babri case, Hashim Ansari, 94, urged Prime Minister Modi to bring an end to the ‘shila pujas’ and “provocative statements” from the VHP leaders.
“Those performing shila pujas have no regard for their religion or the law of the land,” Mr. Ansari said.
Here's a timeline of how events unfolded in the Ayodhya verdict:
The case Timeline
- › 1949: Idols of Ram Lalla are placed surreptitiously under the central dome.
- › 1950: Gopal Simla Visharad files first suit in Faizabad civil court for rights to perform pooja to Ram Lalla.
- › 1950: Paramahansa Ramachandra Das files a suit for continuation of pooja and keeping idols in the structure.
- › 1959: Nirmohi Akhara files third suit, seeking direction to hand over charge of the disputed site. U.P. Sunni Central Wakf Board files fourth suit in 1961 for declaration and possession and fifth in 1989 in the name of Ram Lalla Virajman for declaration and possession.
- › 1986: District judge orderes locks be removed. Site opened for Hindu worshippers.
- › 1989: The four suits pending were transferred to the High Court.
- › 1991: U.P. govt. acquires land around the structure for convenience of devotees who attend Ram Lalla darshan.
- › 1993: Govt. takes over 67 acres of land around the area, seeks SC's opinion on whether there existed a Hindu place of worship before the structure was built.
- › 1994: Case goes back to Lucknow Bench of HC, suits heard again from 1996.