Give us the date now: Uddhav Thackeray dares BJP government on Ram temple
Uddhav Thackeray’s visit is a part of Sena’s campaign for the building of the Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya
The BJP-led governments at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh are in majority and must give a date by which the construction for the Ram Temple will begin in Ayodhya town, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Saturday as he reiterated his party’s demand for the shrine at the disputed site.
“You have to tell us the date, the rest can follow. I want the date today,” Thackeray said while addressing a gathering at Laxman Quila.
“How many years will we have to wait? Generations have gone by … During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time, it might have been little difficult (to build the temple) but today’s government is powerful… If you want to bring in an ordinance bring it or if you want to make a law, do it,” he said in Hindi.
Thackeray’s visit is a part of Sena’s campaign for the building of the Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Hindus believe the 16th-century mosque, Babri Masjid, was built over a temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site. The mosque was demolished by a mob of thousands in 1992, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.
“It is not important to have a big chest. But you should have a heart in your chest,” Thackeray said in a comment directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Sena chief asserted he had to come to Ayodhya to wake up Kumbhakarna, who he said, has been sleeping for the past four years.
“The Kumbhakarna slept for six months. But this Kumbhakarna (the Modi government) is sleeping for the past four years,” Thackeray said referring to the mythological character in the Hindu epic Ramayana.
“I have not come here to fight with anyone or take credit for construction of the Ram Mandir. You (BJP) construct the temple and take credit,” Thackeray said.
The Shiv Sena chief said the Modi government has not sought a court’s permission to bring demonetisation, asking, “Now, for Ram Mandir why you are waiting for court’s order?”
Hindu groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have called for a law or an ordinance to facilitate the building of a temple at the disputed site. The RSS has also threatened a 1992-like campaign for its construction.
Talk of the government considering an ordinance or a bill to construct a temple in Ayodhya in the remainder of Parliament’s term has gained momentum after the RSS’ demand.
The dispute – among India’s most sensitive and divisive political issue - has slowly returned to the political centre stage over the past few months. The Supreme Court has turned down the Uttar Pradesh government’s request to expedite hearing the land title dispute case and pushed the hearing to January next year.
The Shiv Sena, which is part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but has had strained ties with ally BJP, has also demanded an ordinance and declare a date for the construction of the Ram temple. It has claimed it has the support of more than 400 members of Parliament cutting across party lines for the ordinance.
And on Friday, senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut pushed it a little further.
“The Babri mosque was demolished in 17 minutes ... How long does it take to prepare papers... to bring ordinance... from the Rashtrapati Bhawan to Uttar Pradesh assembly... They are all BJP governments,” Raut said.
Grand rituals, tight security
Thackeray arrived in Ayodhya earlier in the day with his son Aditya and wife Rashmi amid heavy security to take part in grand rituals. They participated in the Ashirwaad Sammelan at Laxman Quila to seek blessings of the seers.
Thackeray is carrying an urn containing the earth from the Shivneri Fort, the birthplace of Maratha warrior king Shivaji in Pune district of Maharashtra, in his first ever visit to the temple town. His father and founder of the Shiv Sena, the late Bal Thackeray, had travelled to Uttar Pradesh on a couple of occasions.
He performed puja of saints with full Vedic rituals at the Lakshman Quila ground to seek blessings of saints. Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas who also attended the event, was welcomed by the Thackeray family with Vedic rituals.
“All residents of Ayodhya welcome the family members of Bal Thackeray. We hope that the Shiv Sena plays an important role in the construction of Ram Mandir,” Das said.
Thackeray presented a silver brick to Das for the temple amid slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bhavani-Jai Shivaji’ raised by Shiv Sainiks.
The Thackeray family also took part in the ‘Saryu aarti’ on the banks of the Saryu River. He will visit the disputed site of Ram Temple on Sunday.
Around 4,000 Shiv Sainiks reached the town before him and chanted slogans of “Har Hindu ki yahi pukar, pehle mandir fir sarkar” (this is every Hindu’s call – first temple, then government) or “Jai Shri Ram”, welcoming them.
Party leaders including Raut, state ministers Eknath Shinde, Rajan Vichare, Mumbai mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar and others have been camping in Ayodhya since the past few days to prepare for Thackeray’s visit.
The Sena has planned aartis at 25 places across Mumbai to coincide with Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya. Rallies on motorcycles will also be taken out by the Sena workers across the city. The Sena leaders have been asked to perform aartis in Ram and Hanuman temples in Maharashtra’s capital.
Uttar Pradesh police have sounded a statewide alert amid apprehension of trouble, a day ahead of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP’s) Dharam Sabha on Sunday, where over one lakh people are expected to attend a rally.
Restrictions have been imposed on the entry of devotees at the site of the makeshift temple, with devotees being sent in small batches.
A large contingent of police force, including the Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), has been deployed in the temple town along with 70 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) and 4,000 personnel of civil police to maintain law and order.
Authorities apprehend a repeat of December 1992 incident, when the Babri Mosque was razed by kar sevaks. Muslims living in the town say there are worried about their safety.
A senior police officer said the Ayodhya (formerly Faizabad) district administration had imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the acquired area of the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid premises.