Fresh load of stones in Ayodhya, spotlight back on Ram Temple issue
As new stones land in Ayodhya for the Ram Temple construction at the disputed Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid site, the issue rocks Rajya Sabha, with political opponents of the NDA government alleging that it was intended to stir communal passion ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.india Updated: Dec 24, 2015 08:14 IST
When these sculptors bring their chisels down on stone at a Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) workshop in the holy city, they scarcely care that the noise from their activity reverberates louder in the country’s Parliament – located hundreds of miles away. After all, they seek only to bring back into existence a Hindu structure, allegedly demolished many centuries ago by the Mughals, like the mythical phoenix from its ashes.
Here, in a five-acre stretch near the VHP’s regional headquarters of Karsevakpuram and barely two kilometres from the disputed Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid site, workers painstakingly give shape to a Ram Mandir that many Hindu hardliners hope to install at the spot where the Babri Masjid once stood.
A model of the proposed temple, kept in a glass enclosure, inspires them to make exquisite carvings on the pink sandstone slabs before them.
The arrival of a fresh load of stones from Bharatpur in Rajasthan earlier this week has once again swung the spotlight onto the temple controversy. On Wednesday, the issue rocked the Rajya Sabha, with political opponents of the NDA government alleging that it was intended to stir communal passion ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections.
Opposition members voiced their concern over reports of two truckloads of stone being transported to Ayodhya earlier this week. Such activities are being planned “only to charge up the atmosphere”, JDU member KC Tyagi said, quoting an alleged statement by Mahant Nritya Gopal Das about a signal from the Modi government that “the temple will be built now”.
Outside Parliament, BSP supremo Mayawati told reporters, “This had been the agenda of the BJP and RSS for a long time. But the government should apply the brakes on such activities.”
However, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi rubbished the claim by remarking that there was nothing new about the construction activity. Stating that “there was no ban on carving of stones”, he said the government fully intended to respect the court’s decision.
VHP regional spokesperson Sharad Sharma echoed Naqvi’s contention that the latest furore over the arrival of stones was largely misplaced. They have been coming in since 1990, he said, with the exception of an eight-year break that started in 2007 – when the then Congress government of Rajasthan banned mining at the Bansi Pahadpur stone mine by declaring it a forest reserve. The transportation of stones resumed after the mining contractor received a favourable order in court, Sharma added.
He told HT that 65-70% of the carving work had been completed, and about 75 thousand cubic feet of stone was further required to finish the work. However, he did not specify a specific project completion date.
Artisan Shreechand said over 1,000 visitors visit the workshop every day. While some donate money, others contribute bricks. Dinesh Patel, a devotee from Ahmedabad, said he would like to see the temple being constructed “at the right place” without harming the country’s religious harmony.
Many, however, discard such a possibility. “What if we start collecting stones for the construction of the Babri Masjid?” asked Hazi Mahboob, a Muslim.