AYODHYA: Twenty three years after the demolition of the Babri mosque and construction of a ‘makeshift temple’ at the site in Ayodhya, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has launched its next phase: construction of the Ram Mandir. Two truck loads of stones and slabs have been arrived at Ayodhya with the VHP maintaining that it has got the ‘green signal’ from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Now, the time has come for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Lots of stones arrived today in Ayodhya and their arrival will continue. We have signals from Modi government that Mandir (temple) construction would be done now,” Mahant Nritya Gopal Das told a PTI reporter.

VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma further confirmed, “Two trucks of stones have been unloaded at Ram Sewak Puram, a VHP property in Ayodhya, and ‘Shila Pujan’ (praying of the stones) has been performed by Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the president of Ram Janam Bhumi Nyas.”

The Uttar Pradesh government is looking on, waiting for trouble to erupt before taking any action. Preventive action is clearly not in its books. The local Faizabad Senior Superintendent of Police Mohit Gupta claimed, “We are monitoring all the developments minutely. Stones have arrived and being kept in a private premises. Due to this development, if their was any breach in peace or communal harmony we will definitely take action.”

VHP leader Ashok Singhal who was a key figure in the events that led to the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 had announced the construction of the temple six months ago. He died recently. At the time the UP government had responded almost immediately with Principal Secretary Devashish Panda maintaining that the this would not be allowed. “Since the matter is sub judice, the government will not allow starting of any new tradition regarding Ayodhya issue,” he said.

Today, there is silence except from the local police. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav are indoors, and have been since the Muzaffarnagar violence during the Lok Sabha elections last year. A slight movement by Mulayam Singh to forge a new alliance with the Opposition parties subsequently fell by the wayside before the Bihar elections, when the Samajwadi pulled out and announced its decision to contest the state polls on its own. Opposition speculation suggests that Mulayam Singh is under pressure because of corruption cases against him, but the fact remains that so far the state government has remained a mute spectator and allowed the trucks to be offloaded and the religious ceremony around the stones to be held.

The VHP is now on course, and claiming the support of the central government for completion of the ‘unfinished agenda’ of constructing the Ram mandir. Recently the makeshift temple was repaired and cleaned as well. Singhal had said that of the 2.25 lakhs cubic ft of stones, the VHP required just one lakh cubic ft stones more that would be collected by Hindu devotees. Reminiscent really of the shilanyas movement, when bricks were brought from villages by devotees to Ayodhya in processions from all across the country even as BJP leader LK Advani took out a nationwide rath yatra to realise the ‘mandir wahin banega’ assurance. He was arrested under the VP Singh government, with the Congress successor PV Narasimha Rao finally presiding over the final demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya. India had paid the price for this with communal strife across the country taking a huge toll of lives.

The arrival of the stones suggests now a new determination to move ahead with the construction of the temple. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had said a few months ago, “India is rich in religion and culture. Ram is our ideal whom some regard as god and some as a great man … Society should rise taking inspiration from Ram and Sharad Kothari and prepare for building a grand Ram temple like Somnath.” He repeated this at the condolence ceremony for Singhal in New Delhi maintaining, “If we have to accomplish the resolve of Ashokji, we have to take a pledge today to make his resolve ours. We have to make serious attempts to build the Ram Temple and that will be a true tribute to him. Ashokji’s spirit will guide us in this task” he said, adding that “in the coming few years we hope to work towards accomplishing his dream of Ram Temple.”

The VHP which had been fairly constant about its resolve to build the temple since the Modi government came to power has also found public support from BJP leaders on this. Subramanian Swamy has been on Twitter insisting that the temple be built before 2016. “My appeal to Modi government stands: Building Ram Temple in Ayodhya must begin in 2016. If government doesn’t know how then ask me or get out of my way.”

Significantly, the BJP had re-introduced the Ram Temple in its election manifesto for the 2014 general elections.

Uttar Pradesh is already in campaign mode insofar as the BJP is concerned for the 2017 Assembly elections. Several incidents of communal violence have taken a toll in the state with the Samajwadi government looking on as a hapless bystander. Bahujan Samaj leaders instead accuse the Samajwadi party of conniving with the BJP on this. Against the deteriorating communal environment, the construction of the Ram Mandir is again being brought back centre-stage by the VHP claiming the support of the centre.v