THE Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of a Trust for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Lok Sabha Wednesday. The Trust, named Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirtha Kshetra, will take decisions independently on the construction of a Ram temple and related issues and will be handed over the whole of the 67.703 acres acquired “to maintain the sanctity of Ayodhya and for the construction of the temple, keeping in mind the needs of crores of devotees,” Modi said.
On November 9 last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous verdict, ruled that the entire disputed land be handed over to a trust to be constituted for construction of a Ram temple and that Muslims, in the name of “equity”, be given five acres of either the acquired land near the site or at “a suitable prominent place in Ayodhya” for building a mosque. It gave the Centre three months to “formulate a scheme pursuant to the powers vested in it under Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993.”
The apex court gave the Centre a three-month timeline to set up the trust for the temple at the site where the Babri Masjid had been demolished on December 6, 1992. The apex court also ordered handing over of a 5-acre plot to Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board and setting up of a trust for construction of the Ram temple.
Making what he called an “important and historic” decision, the Prime Minister lauded the people for displaying “remarkable faith in democratic processes and procedures” after the Supreme Court verdict.
The Prime Minister said the Uttar Pradesh government has agreed to provide land for a mosque and hand it over to Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board — five acres in Dhannipur village in Ayodhya on the Lucknow highway, about 18 km from the district headquarters, according to a state government spokesperson.
“I am pleased to announce that a significant decision has been taken to follow the directives of the Supreme Court. The Cabinet has prepared a detailed plan for the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya. My government has decided to set up a trust called Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra, which will take decisions independently on the construction of a Ram temple and related issues,” said Modi, who came to the Lok Sabha straight from the Cabinet meeting.
According to Modi, the issue, like for crores of Indians, is a matter close to his heart and he considered himself fortunate to make the announcement. He said he got news of the historic judgment while he was in the “pious atmosphere”of Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations in Kartarpur, Punjab.
Modi’s announcement in the Lok Sabha, one of those rare instances, assumes significance as it was Home Minister Amit Shah who had taken the lead role when the BJP government pushed other legislative initiatives to fulfil the party’s core ideological agenda – be it scrapping of Article 370 or amendment to the citizenship law.
Shah was present in the Lok Sabha while the Prime Minister made the announcement.
“There are people of all communities in India whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis or Jains — we are all part of a larger family. All members of this family develop, they live in happiness, they are healthy, the country prospers — with this sentiment my government is going ahead with the mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas,” Modi said.
In the Lok Sabha, as Opposition MPs sat silently, Modi urged everyone to support the construction of a “magnificent” Ram Temple in Ayodhya. As the Prime Minister concluded his statement, BJP MPs thumped the desk with chants of “Jai Shri Ram.”
Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister and spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said the state government had identified three places for the proposed mosque and finally a plot was identified keeping in mind not just good connectivity, public ease but also “communal harmony” and “law and order.”
The plot is about 200 m away from the Raunahi police station. It belongs to the Government and falls outside the “Panch-kosi” and “14 kosi” parikrama marga in Ayodhya town — a demand of seers in Ayodhya. It is near Muslim-dominated villages. One of the litigants, Iqbal Ansari, welcomed the Government’s move but added that it would have been better had the plot been in Ayodhya. He said he would propose to build a “dharamshala and school” on the land. Ansari said that the Government had wrongly interpreted “Ayodhya.” In the original case, it referred to Ayodhya town but the Government changed thename of the Faizabad district to Ayodhya and has provided land in Raunahi area of Ayodhya district. He said that he hoped the Government would decide after speaking with other litigants.
Said Zafaryab Jilani, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board and convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee: “While the land has been given to Sunni Central Waqf Board and AIMPLB as well as Babri Masjid Action Committee had already made their stand clear that they are not in favour of taking any land in replacement of a mosque, we need to point out that neither the land is in prominent place nor it is in Ayodhya, which the actual case relates to. “Faizabad jile ka naam badal dene se woh Ayodhya nahi ho jayegi” (By changing the name of Faizabad district as Ayodhya, it would not become that Ayodhya), he said.
The Sunni Central Waqf Board chairman could not be contacted.