Lucknow: The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has trimmed the Ram Mandir ground-breaking ceremony invitee list by over a 100 people amid a Covid-19 scare.
Initially, the trust planned to invite 267 people to attend the ceremony Wednesday. Now, only 162 people are being invited, said a member of the trust who didn’t wish to be named. The list has been cut down due to the menacing spread of the Covid pandemic in UP, added the leader.
On Sunday, UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh tested positive for the coronavirus. In Delhi, Home Minister Amit Shah also tested positive. Many other political leaders across the country are battling the virus too.
In the wake of this, the trust and the district administration are making all preparations to implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s social distancing slogan, ‘Do gaz doori, bahut zaroori’ (maintain a necessary distance of two yards). The seating arrangement for the ceremony has been made accordingly.
Modi, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, CM Yogi Adityanath and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, will be seated on the stage, along with the trust president, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. All five will be seated at a distance from each other, said a source associated with the trust.
Who has been invited
BJP, RSS and VHP leaders who were involved with the temple movement are among the invitees, as are members from the saint community.
BJP leaders including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel, party president J.P. Nadda, Ayodhya MP Lallu Singh and others like Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar have been invited, according to the source quoted above.
Bharti said Monday that she will go to the temple only after the PM has left as she is concerned about him. Her decision came after Shah and others tested Covid-positive.
Among the members of the UP cabinet, Deputy CMs Keshav Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, and ministers Suresh Khanna and Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan are expected to be present on the occasion, said the source.
There has been speculation about participation of prominent industrialists. However, there is no clarity on this yet.
Prominent saints have been invited from across the country, the source said. These include yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Rameshwaranand Maharaj of Pushkar, Narendra Giri of Akhara Parishad, Vijay Kaushal Maharaj, Sadhvi Ritambhara and Mahant Phuldol Bihari Das from Mathura, among others. Astrologer Ramnarayan Dwivedi is also among the invitees.
Iqbal Ansari, one of the main litigants in the Babri Masjid case, has also been invited.
What the invites say
The trust has sent out a yellow-coloured invitation card to all the invitees through email. Its text reads: “We are feeling extremely delighted while inviting you at the historic moment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiating the temple construction work.” ThePrint has accessed a copy of it.
The main reason for choosing this colour is that it’s the theme of the event, said a VHP member who didn’t wish to be named. The entire town has been covered in yellow whitewash and themed artwork.
The card also states that the invitees must be present on Tuesday evening to visit Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya.
The Ayodhya prep
The trust’s general secretary, Champat Rai, has appealed to the Ayodhya residents to watch the ceremony from their homes only as nobody will be allowed to enter the temple’s premises on the day of the event.
The city administration is installing loudspeakers and LED screens across the town to facilitate easy viewing of the ceremony.
Rai also advised the people to avoid trending fake news related to the temple – including use of silver-gold bricks and a time capsule being placed under the foundation. He said the ceremony will be held in the traditional manner.
However, the participation of the Ram Janmabhoomi head priest, Acharya Satyendra Das, is uncertain as he has been quarantined for three days despite testing Covid-negative. Earlier, one of the priests had tested Covid-positive along with 14 security personnel.