Ayodhya: Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing for the development of the temple town of Ayodhya in a way that manifests “the finest of our traditions and the best of our developmental transformations”, the construction of the Ram Mandir around which this is centered has been riddled with controversies and infighting between religious groups based in the Uttar Pradesh pilgrimage town.
A few days ago, Mahant Paramhans Das of Ayodhya’s Tapasvi Chhawani wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, alleging that several organisations formed in the name of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement had collected a large sum of money from devotees over the past several decades for the avowed purpose of building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. He also questioned why they were continuing to do so even after the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra was set up for the same purpose last year.
Das has now said he has been requested by the groups in question not to pursue the matter further.
“After my letter, these outfits reached out to me asking me not to pursue this. But I have done my bit. I have alerted the authorities. It is now up to the administration to investigate this,” he told ThePrint.
In his letter, a copy of which was also sent to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Jha, Das had accused these outfits of “cheating the devotees” and requested that the amount collected by these outfits be transferred to the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra.
The mahant added: “I still reiterate that there are some outfits, such as Shri Ram Janambhoomi Mandir Nirman Nyas and Ramalay Trust, that have been collecting donations for the construction for years now. When the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra has already been constituted to build the temple, why are these outfits still collecting donations? Why do they still exist?”
On their part, the organisations that have been accused of “cheating” by Das have not only rubbished the allegations, but some have also questioned Das’s contribution (or the lack thereof) towards the cause of the temple construction.
This is not the first time that allegations of fraud or misappropriation of funds meant for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya have been raised.
In 2017, Nirmohi Akhara, a party in the Ram Mandir dispute, had accused the VHP of embezzling funds collected in the name of the Ayodhya temple.
Earlier this year, others too raised questions about funds collected in the past even as money was continued to be collected from across the country for the construction of the temple — a 45-day donation drive, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Nidhi Samarpan Abhiyan, had been launched on 14 January, during which approximately Rs 2,100 crore was collected.
Then, in June, came the allegations of a scam in the purchase of land for projects related to the temple.
The letter to Shah & counter allegations
“They are holding press conferences that they are also accepting gold. Last I heard, they were also offering the post of padadhikaris against a sum of Rs 2 to 5 lakh. What does this indicate?” Das questioned, while talking to ThePrint.
Mahant Janmejay Sharan of Janki Ghat, the founder of Shri Ram Janambhoomi Mandir Nirman Nyas, however, rubbished all allegations made by Das and said: “My trust has been registered since 2008. I am ready for the investigation. Why don’t the agencies check the bank account details (of my trust).”
He added: “Aarop lagane wala bhi farzi hai aur aarop bhi. Home minister ko details dekhni hain toh dekh len (The person levelling the allegations is a fraud, and so are the allegations. The home minister can look into the details if he wants).”
Accusing Das of not donating anything for the cause of the temple construction, he challenged the former to tell the world how much he has donated towards the cause of Ram Mandir.
According to Sharan, Das even called him and apologised for levelling the allegations against his trust.
Das, however, said “as the trusts have reached out to me to not stretch the matter, I will not further pursue this issue”.
Referring to the upcoming 2022 assembly elections in the state and the issues that are expected to influence the results, Das added: “Both the BSP and the SP will fight the elections in the name of Parshuram, while the BJP will draw support from the Ram Mandir issue. I don’t want to raise questions on the donations, as distrust of the trusts may result in distrust of BJP. This may affect the 2022 polls.”
Meanwhile, Ramadal Trust, another religious organisation, has come out in support of Das.
The president of the trust, Kalgi Ram, told ThePrint: “Ramalay is working against Sanatan Dharm. The whole of Ayodhya knows this. They are only collecting funds. We urge the authorities to investigate this. Pramahans’s allegations are true and should be taken seriously.”
ThePrint tried to reach Ramalaya Nyas head Abhimukteshawranand over phone, but he didn’t respond.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)