New Delhi: A host of senior BJP, RSS and VHP leaders associated with the Ram Temple movement, prominent Muslim leaders, one of the main litigants in the Babri Masjid demolition case, Baba Ramdev and saints from across the country – these are among the invitees for Ram temple’s bhoomi pujan (ground-breaking) ceremony at Ayodhya on 5 August.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confirmed to participate in the ceremony being organised by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust.
According to senior members in the trust, the invited Muslim leaders include Zafar Farooqui, chairman of Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, and Wasim Rizvi, chairman of UP Shia Central Waqf Board.
Iqbal Ansari, one of the litigants in the Ayodhya land dispute case, has also been invited. Ansari is the son of Mohammad Hashim Ansari, one of the original litigants in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are among the BJP-Sangh leaders who have confirmed their presence. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, and Yoga guru Ramdev are among the other invitees who have confirmed their participation, said the sources.
Opposition leaders not invited
The trust has not invited opposition leaders from any political party, including Congress president and Rae Bareli MP Sonia Gandhi.
“We have not sent an invite to any political party as we don’t want to differentiate between parties. We can’t pick and choose. Lord Ram is a holy figure for all. We are appealing to all those who have not been invited to pray wherever they are,” Swami Govind Dev Giri, treasurer of the trust, told ThePrint from Pune.
The only exception is BSP MP Ritesh Pandey, who represents Ambedkar Nagar. “We have invited all MPs and MLAs representing Faizabad, Ayodhya and adjoining areas,” Giri said.
This list includes BJP MP Lallu Singh, who represents Faizabad, BJP MLA Baba Gorakhnath from Milkipur, and BJP’s Ayodhya MLA Ved Prakash Gupta. Senior civil servants from Ayodhya will also be present.
Giri added that the trust has not sent an invite to any central ministers due to the pandemic.
“Because of the Covid pandemic, the trust is inviting only a limited number of people. We are not aware if Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, who will be present at the ceremony, has sent special invites to some people,” he added.
The UP chief minister will be accompanied by his two deputies, Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, Tourism Minister Neelkanth Tiwari, among others. UP Governor Anandiben Patel will also be present, said the sources.
Figures involved in Ram Janmabhoomi movement to be present
All prominent BJP and VHP leaders who were part of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement have confirmed their participation at the ground-breaking ceremony, said the sources.
These include BJP patriarchs L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, former UP CM Kalyan Singh, and leaders Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambhara.
BJP president J.P. Nadda, RSS women’s wing chief V. Shantha Kumari, fondly called Shantha Akka, and Puneet Dalmia, son of senior VHP member late Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, have also been invited.
Saints from across the country and heads of ‘akharas’ that represent different Hindu sects have invited too. “We have also invited prominent Buddhist monks and representatives from Chinmaya and Ram Krishna missions,” Giri said.
‘All protocols to be followed’
Amid the Covid pandemic, the trust has gone ahead with its arrangements for the ground-breaking ceremony.
“It’s a historic moment for which we have been waiting for all these years. But we are aware of the situation in the country because of the pandemic. We are taking all the necessary precautions. All safety protocols will be followed to the hilt,” said Kameshwar Chaupal, a member of the trust, which was formed in February following the Supreme Court’s 9 November 2019 order.
The construction work on the Ram temple will officially start soon after the ceremony. The trust has set a 2024 deadline for completing the temple.
RSS women’s wing chief V. Shantha Kumari, also called Shantha Akka, was incorrectly referred to as Shanti Akka. The error is regretted.