The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-backed ‘Ram Rajya Rath Yatra’, which started from Ayodhya in February reached Madurai in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. The yatra, organised by Maharashtra-based Shri Ramdas Mission Universal Society, has traversed across six states till now and will conclude at Rameshwaram on Thursday. The ‘rath’ is a replica of the proposed Ram temple.
The 41-day yatra was flagged off from the VHP’s local headquarters Karsewak Puram in Ayodhya by party general secretary Champat Rai on February 13. During the course of its journey, it covered parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
While the main agenda of the yatra is to administer a pledge to the people for construction of the Ram temple on the disputed land in Ayodhya, it also seeks to re-establish ‘Ram Rajya’, include Ramayana in school syllabus, declare Thursday as the official weekly off in the place of Sunday and observe ‘National Hindu Day’.
As the yatra entered Shencottah in Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu from neighbouring Kerala, Section 144 was imposed in many cities by the local administration in order to avoid any untoward incident. The yatra will move to Thiruvananthapuram and will cover various districts, including Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari.
The yatra has been criticised by the Left parties which have expressed concerns over it. A day after it was flagged off, CPI (M) issued a statement saying: “CPI(M) expresses its deep concern over the ‘Ram Raj Rath Yatra’. This yatra has an incendiary potential to sharpen communal polarisation in order to strengthen the communal Hindutva vote bank for the RSS-BJP. There are grave implications of possibilities for stoking communal tensions, violence and mayhem.” The party called upon all secular and peace-loving forces to expose the “sinister designs of communal mobilisation by the RSS/BJP”.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami defended the AIADMK government’s decision to allow the yatra, which is facing widespread protest from activists and others in the state, saying all religions have equal rights and accused the opposition of trying to give political colour. However, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said if communally provocative or divisive words were used in the yatra, the government would take stern action.
BJP Tamil Nadu unit president Tamilisai Soundarajan said the yatra was facing opposition only in Tamil Nadu. Hailing Tamil Nadu as a land nurtured by spiritual gurus, she questioned why there should be opposition to it.
Related Read | Ram Mandir: A timeline of the long-standing dispute
(With PTI inputs)