As Uttar Pradesh politics gets closer to the Ram temple issue while debating on a proposed Ramayan museum in Ayodhya ahead of the Assembly elections, officials said the Union Tourism Ministry and the Samajwadi Party-led state government have been working together to develop Ramayan-based tourist centres in the temple town for several months.
Tourism ministry officials said the first meeting of the National Committee on Ramayan Circuit, under the ministry’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme, was held on June 14, with Minister of State for Tourism Mahesh Sharma and officials of central and UP Tourism Departments in attendance.
The meeting came months after the ministry hired consultancy firm Ernst & Young to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) on the Ayodhya circuit, said an official privy to the details.
“The meeting was held to discuss the DPR prepared by E&Y. These projects in Ayodhya were under consideration for long; they are not a sudden development,” the official said.
According to officials, following presentations, it was proposed in the meeting to set up a 3D Ramayan gallery, or a museum, to showcase the epic. Projects worth Rs 300 crore were approved in the meeting for Ramayan and Krishna circuits in UP, the official said, adding that most of the fund approved was for the Ramayan circuit.
Significantly, while SP leaders have so far kept quiet on the Ram circuit issue and the temple controversy, BSP chief Mayawati has alleged that the proposed Ramayan museum and UP government’s plans for a Ram Leela theme park are political moves by the BJP-led NDA and the SP government to revive the Ram temple issue.
On Tuesday, BJP Rajya Sabha MP and the face of the Ram temple movement, Vinay Katiyar, “reminded” the Central government about “sacrifices” made by people for the temple. “People…were killed in firing (during the Ram temple movement in the early-1990s). They ask us (about the status of the temple),” he told The Indian Express. “Our movement will continue until the Ram temple is constructed.”
As per the government’s plan, beginning from Ayodhya, the Ramayan circuit will involve several destinations across the country – Chitrakoot, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Jagdalpur (Chattisgarh), Bhadrachalam (Telangana), Hampi and Rameshwaram, among them.
Besides the Ramayan circuit, the Tourism Ministry has also identified 12 other thematic circuits. These include the North-East India circuit, Buddhist circuit, Himalayan circuit, coastal circuit, Krishna circuit, desert circuit, tribal circuit, eco circuit, wildlife circuit, rural circuit, spiritual circuit and heritage circuit.