New Delhi: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi having laid the foundation stone for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, parties in Bihar, cutting across political lines, now want the Centre to develop Sitamarhi, believed to be the birthplace of Sita, as the Janaki Janmabhoomi.
Taking the lead is the ruling JD(U) — an ally of the BJP — which has written to PM Modi, urging him to start work in this regard. The party is also preparing to raise the issue in the monsoon session of Parliament.
“If the birthplace of Sita in Sitamarhi is developed like Ayodhya, it can contribute a lot to the economic prosperity of India and the tourism industry,” Sunil Kumar Pintu, the JD(U) MP from Sitamarhi, told ThePrint.
“We have also written a letter to the PM regarding this. All organisations have also sought time to meet PM Modi in this context in the upcoming parliamentary session,” Pintu added.
Not to be left behind, with assembly elections around the corner, opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has joined in on the chorus.
“Sri Ram cannot be imagined without Mata Sita,” the RJD Rajya Sabha MP, Manoj Kumar Jha, told ThePrint.
“Before the 80s, slogans such as Jai Siya Ram and Sita Ram were prevalent in the whole of North India. From Jai Siya Ram to Jai Shri Ram, somewhere Sitaji lost out in this journey,” he added. “That is why our party has been saying that a temple dedicated to Sitaji should be built in Sitamarhi and it should be as grand as the Ram temple in Ayodhya. I will definitely bring up this matter in Parliament.”
‘Sita’s stature should be equal to Ram’s’
The JD(U)’s Pintu insists that the demand is just an effort to ensure equal status for Sita.
“The PM has also assured us that besides the Janaki temple, the entire district will also be developed,” he said. “Some work is also being done here for the construction of the temple and for the development of Sitamarhi, but no one is satisfied with it. Now that the PM has changed Jai Shri Ram into Jai Siya Ram, we have decided to meet and convince him that this is the right time to give Sita status equal to that of Ram. Sitamarhi should be developed just like Ayodhya.”
The JD(U) MP further said the chorus has nothing to do with the upcoming assembly elections. “Everyone has started comparing Ayodhya with Sitamarhi, which appears very backward in comparison,” Pintu said. “We all want work to be done on a large scale here. Now that a grand temple of Ram is being built in Ayodhya, the demand for a temple dedicated to Sitaji in Sitamarhi has also picked up. Elections will keep happening now and again and they have nothing to do with this.”
BJP MP from Bettiah in West Champaran, Sanjay Jaiswal, however, said the onus of developing Sitamarhi is on the people of the city, and not the Modi government.
“Many grand programmes have been organised by the BJP government but the Ram temple is being constructed by a trust,” he told ThePrint. “If the people of Sitamarhi want a Sita temple, then all of them can come together and do it. The central government is not required for this. All of us can develop this together with public representatives.”
Not everyone, however, is on board. Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar, said the state government should first focus on containing the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic situation in the state following widespread floods.
“Right now, coronavirus is a bigger issue than the temple. Saving people from the pandemic is more important,” he said. “The need of the hour is to build hospitals and strengthen the health infrastructure. Temples and mosques will continue to be built.”
The Bihar government has announced projects for Sitamarhi, including a Rs 48-crore tourism package by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2018, but none of them has actually taken off.
Principal Secretary (Tourism) Sanjay Kumar told ThePrint that efforts are on to develop a Ramayana circuit in Bihar, which will include Darbhanga, the Ram Rekha Ghat in Buxar, and Sitamarhi. “A report regarding this has been sent to the Modi government but the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered the efforts,” he said.
(With inputs from Puja Mehrotra )