New Delhi: The Nepalese Foreign Ministry Tuesday sought to clarify Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s statement that the “real” Ayodhya where the Hindu deity Ram was born is in Nepal. The remarks, the ministry said, were “not linked to any political subject and have no intention at all to hurt the feeling and sentiment of anyone”.
In yet another attempt to provoke India amid tensions between the two nations, Oli said Monday that the “real Ayodhya lies at Thori in the west of Birgunj”, reportedly adding that Lord Ram wasn’t born in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
Oli was addressing an event to mark the 207th birth anniversary of Adikavi Bhanu Bhakta Acharya, the author of the Ramayana in Nepalese.
He also said Nepal had been a “victim” of “cultural encroachment” and “manipulation of history”.
“The remarks made by the Prime Minister are not linked to any political subject and have no intention at all to hurt the feeling and sentiment of anyone,” the foreign ministry said. “As there have been several myths and references about Shri Ram and the places associated with him, the Prime Minister was simply highlighting the importance of further studies and research of the vast cultural geography the Ramayana represents to obtain facts about Shri Ram, Ramayana and the various places linked to this rich civilisation.”
It added, “The remarks were not meant to debasing (sic) the significance of Ayodhya and the cultural value it bears.”
Every year, the ministry said, Nepal celebrates the tradition of ‘Bibaha Panchami’, marked by the arrival of a marriage procession from Ayodhya, India, to Janakpur in Nepal, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram’s wife Sita.
Mentions Ramayana Circuit
The Nepalese Foreign Ministry’s statement comes as sources hinted at annoyance in New Delhi over Oli’s remarks, which have also been criticised within the Hindu majority in Nepal.
In its statement, the ministry highlighted the launch of the ‘Ramayana Circuit’ by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Oli in May 2018.
The Ramayana Circuit is one of the 15 thematic circuits identified for development under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the Ministry of Tourism.
The Janakpur-Ayodhya passenger bus service, the ministry said, forms an “important component” of the circuit.
“These facts signify the bond of time-honoured cultural affinity between our two countries and peoples,” it added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.