Since the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas has been stockpiling stone blocks for the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya. As far as carving the stones is concerned, however, only one artisan is engaged in that work at present, and the stones being carved are from earlier stocks.
In the last four months, 42 blocks of pink sandstone have reached Ayodhya in four consignments at Ramsevakpuram, a property of the Nyas, which is an organisation of VHP leaders and religious personalities to promote and oversee the development of the temple. The VHP, which has been highlighting its effort to build the temple, plans to take out a tableau in Agra Saturday, and local leaders say it will showcase the proposed design of the temple.
On the ground, however, artisan Rajnikant is the only one currently engaged in carving stones at the Nyas workshop, around 500 m from Ramsevakpuram. And two large stone-cutting machines have lain unused for more than a decade.
Two trucks laden with sandstone will reach Ayodhya every month for the next one year, workshop-in-charge Annubhai Sompura told The Indian Express. “Once we have a huge stock of stones in the next 12 months, we will engage more artisans and labourers to speed up the work of carving stones.” He said half-a-dozen workers had been engaged but five of them are on leave.
The Opposition calls it a tactic of the BJP to revive the Ram temple issue to polarise voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “The BJP has no agenda of development. They only want to keep the Ram temple issue alive for political interests and divide society on religious lines. They are highlighting the arrival of stones in the media just to show off,” said Pawan Pandey, former Samajwadi Party MLA from Ayodhya and a minister in the previous Akhilesh Yadav government.
“The BJP has the Prime Minister elected from UP and has its chief minister in UP,” Pandey said. “Why are they not passing a bill in Parliament for building a Ram temple? They only want to gain from lord Ram’s name by bringing stones.”
Sompura said one lot of stones had arrived in December 2015, followed by fresh lots in the last several months, but these have not been worked on yet, with only the stones received around a decade ago being carved at present. There are two stone-cutters — one machine at Ramsevakpuram and the other at the workshop — but neither has been operated for more than a decade. At the workshop, carving of stones had begun in 1990, with more than 150 workers in the beginning.
On September 1, a fresh consignment of stones in two trucks was unloaded at Ramsevakpuram. Earlier consignments of stones had reached Ayodhya in August, July and June, from Bansi Pahadpur in Rajasthan. In June 2015, the Nyas had appealed to the public to donate stones instead of cash for the Ram temple.
Nyas head Nritya Gopal Das linked construction to the fact that Narendra Modi is PM while Yogi Adityanath is CM. “Ek oar Modi, ek oar Yogi… Ab Ram Mandir nahin banega to kab banega (if not now, when else will construction begin),” Das told The Indian Express, sitting at his home.
“Is liye punaha pathhar aana shuru ho gaya hai (that is why the stones have started arriving once again),” he said. “How will the temple be built if stones aren’t there? Devotees are donating stones and these are coming to Ayodhya.”
When it was pointed out that the PM has been maintaining a silence on the Ram temple issue, Das said, “It is in Modiji’s nature to work. He does not talk about it.” On allegations by the Opposition that the sourcing of stones is BJP propaganda for electoral gains, Das said, “The BJP is in power both at the Centre and in UP. It does not need to show off to give any message.”
About the fact that only one artisan is at work in the workshop at present, Das said, “When the stones have reached here, the carving work must be given pace. The number of workers in the workshop will increase soon.” Das is one of the accused facing trial in the Babri masjid demolition case in the Lucknow CBI court.
VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma said that in December 2015, when the Samajwadi Party was in power, the commercial tax department had stopped allowing the Nyas to bring sandstone from Rajasthan after 35 tonnes had reached Ayodhya. “From June this year, the department has allowed the sourcing of stones from other states,” Sharma said.
VHP leaders say around 1.75 lakh cubic feet of stones will be required to build the temple as per the proposed design. Between 1990 and 2007, around 1 lakh cu. ft. stones have been bought. The plan is to build a 268-ft-long, 140-ft-wide and 128-ft-high, two-storey temple, topped by a shikhar (dome).