Ayodhya Workshop Now Part Of Tourists’ Itinerary

Sixty-year-old Mythili Rao’s eyes light up when a pushy vendor informs her that `Ram Mandir Ka Sampoorna Itihas’, a shabbily produced booklet that she is flipping through, is available in Telugu as well.She buys a copy and asks the vendor, “Patthar kahan rakhe hain (where have the stones been kept)?“ Rao and her co-pilgrims from Guntur are promptly directed towards Mandir Nirman Karyashala (temple construction workshop), a new addition to the itinerary of visitors coming to Ayodhya ever since two truckloads of stones were brought into Ayodhya by the Vishwa Hindu Parsihad (VHP) on December 20.

The tourists from Guntur keenly watch sculptors from Gujarat and Rajasthan carving and chiselling stones for the grand temple. Following closely the Guntur group are Rambhuj and his friends from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. Their black shades are an instant giveaway that they have just been discharged from the nearby Deebandhu eye hospital which offers free cataract surgery . For many patients, darshan of Ram lalla is a must after they are discharged.

The two truckloads of pink stones from Bharatpur have done what the combined firepower of the saffron parivar was unable to do -giving a fresh lease of life to the mandir issue. Through these stones, the issue of `temple construction’ has made a quiet entry into the discourse of the locals and tourists alike. The number of people visiting the Karyashala has gone up sharply in the last few days, as has the volume of donations. The stream of OB vans and correspondents that had dried up of late has revived suddenly .ayodhya

The locals, of course, don’t share the enthusiasm of visitors. At best, the recent devel opments fill them with a sense of déjà vu; at worse, with trepidation. “Isse zyada hungama hua tha jab Paramhans (Ramchandra Das, former head of the temple trust) ne shila pujan kiya tha (in 2002). Lekin kuchh nahin hua (There was much more fanfare when Paramhans had performed shila pujan. But nothing happened),“ says Vishnu Sharma, a tea vendor on Parikrama Marg.

Both the sides involved in the temple-mosque tangle -crudely called `Hindu Side’ and `Muslim Side’ in Ayodhya -say arrival of stones is not a new phenomenon. “Stone carving work is on since 1990 -before the demolition of Babri Masjid,“ says Sharad Sharma, VHP’s face in Ayodhya.

So why this hype now?
“Since 2007, the arrival of stones had stopped as mining had been banned in Rajasthan. Besides, we were not get ting the desired size of stones.Now, after the ban was lifted, our suppliers in Bharatpur told us that the size that we require is available. So we instantly placed the order,“ Sharad explains.

But Babri Masjid Action Committee convener Zafaryab Jilani counters this contention. He said in Bareilly on Saturday that stones for construction of Ram temple had been arriving in Ayodhya since the 90s but it has been “publicised“ now to disturb the atmosphere ahead of the 2017 assembly elections. Hashim Ansari, 96, the oldest litigant in Ayodhya title suit, is as alert as one can be and seized of the developments. To a query , “Patthar aa rahe hain.Kya hone wala hai?“ he comes up with his trademark remark: “Chunav hone wale hain (It’s because elections are round the corner.)“

Source: Times of India 29 Dec’2015