Ayodhya: Nritya Gopal Das named president of Ram Mandir trust
The trust tasked with overseeing the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya met for the first time on Wednesday and named Nritya Gopal Das as its president. Das is the chief of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and also an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Vishwa Hindu Parishad's vice president Champat Rai was appointed as the general secretary of the body. Here's more.
Last year, the Supreme Court scripted history by taking the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute to its climax. A five-judge bench, headed by former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, handed over 2.77 acres of land for construction of the temple and said that another 5 acres of land should be allotted for the mosque. The top court ordered setting up a trust for overseeing operations.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in the Parliament that Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Skshetra has been formed following SC's orders. Speaking at zero hour, PM Modi said the trust will work independently and resolve issues related to the temple's construction. He also announced that his government has decided to hand over 67 acres of land surrounding the plot for devotees' ease.
The trust has 15 members, and PM Modi announced just nine names. Yesterday, the trust met for the first time at its head K Parasaran's residence in Greater Kailash, Delhi. At the end of the two-hour-long meeting, the press was briefed. Reportedly, both Rai and Das were previously assured they will be given pivotal posts. They were "special invitees" at the meeting.
The Centre, led by BJP, stayed away from appointing Das and Rai directly into the trust fearing a backlash as both of them are accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. They are out on bail and the case is pending before a special court in Lucknow. In 2001, bombs were hurled at Das and his disciples. He escaped with minor injuries.
Apparently, the model created by VHP will be followed for construction. While Vishwa Prasanna Teerth Swami said another meeting will be held next month to discuss dates, reports suggested construction could start in April. Speaking to media later, Das said, "People's sentiments will be honored and temple construction will be started soon." The trust would make efforts to increase the temple's height and width.
"The inspiration that led Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to get the Somnath temple constructed inspired people to free the Ramjanmabhoomi," Rai said. He informed an account in Ayodhya's SBI Branch will be opened for donations. Welcoming the announcement, Mahant Satyendra Das, the head priest of makeshift temple said, "Mahant Nritya Gopal Das is an ideal for all of us. The Ram temple will be constructed under his leadership."
However, not everyone was happy with the appointments. Mahant Dharamdas of Hanumangarhi said, "This is disregard of the Supreme Court's order. Instead of people with ability, they have picked 80 and 90-year-olds."
In what qualifies as a surprise decision, Nripendra Misra, the former principal secretary of PM Modi was named as head of the temple construction committee. He will manage the 67 acres of surrounding land. The trust includes government officials like Additional Secretary (Kashmir), Ministry of Home Affairs, Gyanesh Kumar; Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Uttar Pradesh, Avneesh Awasthy; and Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha.
Reacting to the development, BJP President JP Nadda said, "I salute the entire Sant community, social organizations and the activists associated with the movement and the people of the country, who played an important role in bringing this struggle of 500 years to its final stage." But NCP Chief Sharad Pawar wondered why a similar trust wasn't formed for the construction of the mosque.