November 15, 2018 4:53:44 am
The otherwise sleepy Safdarjung railway station reverberated with chants of “Jai Shree Ram”, as the Shri Ramayana Express set off for its maiden 16-day journey to places related to Ram.
People from as far as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh were part of the maiden journey – many of them claimed they were active BJP workers and supporters, while others said they were drawn to the train by advertisements.
“Where should the Ram temple be built if not in India?” Mukesh Vashisht from Gurgaon shouted as the train started moving. “We will come back again in 2019.”
Teja Ram Purohit, a retired teacher who claimed to be a BJP volunteer from Rajasthan’s Churu, said he was part of a group of 10 people from his area who had been informed about the train by the local BJP unit. “We are with the BJP. We booked the tickets recently for the journey,” he said.
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Others present included housewives from Ghaziabad without their families, senior citizens in groups, and elderly couples. “We saw the advertisement about this train in the media a few months ago. This government has given us a chance to visit Lord Ram’s birthplace. Previous governments never did this. We have nothing to do with politics or any party,” said P Awasthi, a housewife from Gujarat.
As part of branding of the journey, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which is running the train, gave the tourists silk scarves and flags which were saffron and green with Ram drawn on them. “We provided the branding material as part of the maiden journey. We did not do much branding on the train,” said an IRCTC spokesman.
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