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Ayodhya awaits Modi’s launch of Ram temple construction

Police personnel inspect the proceedings at Hanuman Garhi temple ahead of the ground breaking ceremony of Ram temple, in Ayodhya on August 4, 2020.

Police personnel inspect the proceedings at Hanuman Garhi temple ahead of the ground breaking ceremony of Ram temple, in Ayodhya on August 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Twenty-eight years after the Babri Masjid was demolished by kar sevaks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday formally launch the construction of a temple at the spot, where Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.

The Supreme Court had last November permitted the construction of a Ram temple at the site where the Babri Masjid stood till December 6, 1992.

Also read: Ayodhya | Faith and dispute: the tale of a sacred town

At the market, Setu Lal Agrahari didn’t need to think when asked who should get the credit for the construction of the temple.

Yeh toh Modi ki wajah se bana hai. Jab Modi aye bhaiya, tabhi toh bana (The temple is being constructed due to Modi. Only after [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi came this became possible),” said Mr. Agrahari, as he fried potato cubes in a large pan.

A wall frame at Ram Ki Paidi welcoming PM Modi to Ayodhya for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Ram temple, on August 4, 2020.

A wall frame at Ram Ki Paidi welcoming PM Modi to Ayodhya for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Ram temple, on August 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Omar Rashid

 

Mr. Agrahari, who sells tikki-chaat in Rikabganj, sees the temple construction as a fulfillment of the BJP and Mr. Modi’s poll promise and also praises the efforts of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The SC verdict features only as a footnote for him.

Mr. Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be among the five persons on stage at the bhoomi pujan ceremony for which 175 guests, including 135 seers, were invited by the Trust entrusted with the construction of the temple.

Also read: Muslim devotees of Lord Ram gear up to celebrate temple ‘bhoomi pujan’ in Ayodhya

The bhoomipujan event is scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. Two prominent Muslim names, Iqbal Ansari, the former litigant in the Babri Masjid case, and Mohammad Shareef, who was awarded the Padma Shri for years of performing last rites of unclaimed bodies, have also been invited.

On the eve of the event, Faizabad city was busy with life as usual.

But as one moved northeast towards Ayodhya, less than 8 kms away, the place was quieter, perhaps due to the strict traffic restrictions, COVID-19 fears and the heat; yet a sense of anticipation amid administrative activism pervaded the atmosphere.

Also read: Ram temple to be grander than planned earlier: Architect

In the same market, a much younger Abhishek Kumar, 24, is waiting for customers at his departmental store. Like many locals, Mr. Kumar believes the construction of the temple would boost tourism and business, ending periods of turmoil and uncertainty. Though he has faint memory of the political movement surrounding the temple, Mr. Kumar too credits the Modi government.

Prior to 2014, he says, the temple issue was raised only during elections but the present government “continued working” even after polls and gave it full attention.

When pointed out to him that the temple was being constructed on the directions of the apex court, Mr. Kumar retorts: “This matter was in court for long. But why did the decision come now?”

Also read: Ram Temple ceremony | Confusion over invite to Advani

Loudspeakers mounted by the administration on main roads played hymns about Lord Ram.

The facades of buildings on the main roads were painted a bright yellow, while triangular saffron flags bearing the image of Lord Ram and the proposed temple adorned tops of temples, shops, homes and even vehicles. The Ram Ki Paidi, which is used to depict Ayodhya in popular imagery, was decorated with an array of lights and earthen pots placed on the ghat. Members of a local NGO were busy crafting rangolis about Lord Ram on the steps.

Relaxing under a tree, Om Prakash Prajapati, 26, was however, not much enthused. He feels the temple would boost the economy but “only the babas and priests” and the rich would benefit. “What will the poor get?” he asked.

A wall frame at Ram Ki Paidi welcoming PM Modi to Ayodhya for the bhoomi pujan of the Ram temple, on August 4, 2020.

A wall frame at Ram Ki Paidi welcoming PM Modi to Ayodhya for the bhoomi pujan of the Ram temple, on August 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Omar Rashid

Mr. Prajapati who drives tourists and pilgrims to the Hanumangarhi temple and makeshift Ram Janmabhoomi temple for darshan on his e-rickshaw, unhappily points out that many poor families living in the vicinity of the Ram Ki Paidi were relocated to a colony 1.5 km away by the administration as part of the beautification programme.

Also read: Ram temple construction likely to start next month, PM invited: spokesperson

The sanitation there is poor, he says. “We are unable to eat due to the stench.”

Nankan Gupta, who sells mineral water and tea, disagrees and argues that once the Ram temple is complete, everyone will benefit from increased tourism. Moreover, Mr. Gupta says, till the temple is built, the local priests would continue to fleece “offerings and funds” from believers in the name of the temple. “That will stop once the temple is built,” said Mr. Gupta.

There was a display of sense of indifference by Muslims, many of whom believe the SC verdict has already brought a closure to the decades-long dispute, which resulted in communal polarization and bloodshed in many parts of the country.

Mohammad Anees, who sells flowers for use in temples, Muslim shrines and marriage functions, links the construction of the Ram Temple to his livelihood. “I am more concerned about my livelihood. I have to raise a family and three kids. Once the temple is built, my business will grow,” he said, reluctant to have an opinion on the SC verdict.

Ghufran Siddiqui, a well-known social activist, said Muslims in Faizabad-Ayodhya stopped caring about the issue the day the court awarded the land to the temple side.

Also read: Ram temple bhoomi poojan | A historical and emotional day, says Advani

“Till the day of the verdict, people still had some hope for justice. But now they have no strong opinion on Ram Temple even though many are disappointed,” he said.

However, he adds, some Muslims are more worried the right-wing groups could launch similar Ram Janmabhoomi-like campaigns in Mathura and Varanasi next.

For many Hindus like Arjun Kasaudhan, 30, who sells puja items and photo frames of gods, the moment is once in a lifetime. “We are the generation that will watch the Ram Mandir being constructed,” he said with excitement.

Mr. Kasaudhan's shop is packed with items related to Lord Ram, especially flags bearing the temple. He proudly held one in his hand to display it.

“The flags are being hoisted in celebration of the Ram Mandir that is being built after 500 years,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 7:35:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ayodhya-awaits-modis-launch-of-ram-temple-construction/article32271388.ece

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