In a massive development in the decades-long Ayodhya dispute, seers at the Dharam Sansad taking place at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj have declared that construction of the Ram Mandir will begin on February 21.
Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Dwarka Pith's Shankaracharya, made the announcement. He said that the foundation stone would be laid on February 21. He expressed that this would not be in violation of any court order, citing how till the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict is superceded by the Supreme Court, it would continue to apply.
The seer said that they would march to Ayodhya on February 21 to lay the foundation for the Mandir. He expressed a vision, that Ayodhya be considered equivalent to the Vatican, and added that he's not concerned which government would construct the Mandir. He also remarked that the VHP, which would be holding its own Dharam Sansad starting Thursday, didn't view Lord Ram as a God, rather as a mahapurush, but that he didn't have any enmity with the organisation on account of this.
The announcement comes just a day after the government of India petitioned the Supreme Court to allow it to return the land acquired in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition back to the original owners. Of the 67 acres of land at the site, only 0.313 acres are disputed, with the high-profile title suit currently being adjudicated by the apex court.
A significant portion of the land the government wants to return to its original owners belongs to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas - a trust formed to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Republic TV had been the first to break the input that a big announcement regarding the construction of the Ram Mandir would be made at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj.
Addressing reporters following the government filing its petition on Tuesday, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar had spoken about how there was already a Ram Mandir at the Ram Janmabhoomi site, but that a "magnificent" temple had to be constructed keeping in mind the significance of the holy location. He said that the government wouldn't be the one that would construct the Mandir, rather, that the groups and trusts that are entrusted with doing so would take up the onerous task.
The movement in the matter is in concert with what BJP MP Dr Subramanian Swamy has been saying about paving the way for the Mandir's construction, i.e. that the relevant land, including the disputed area, should be handed over to the VHP so that construction may begin immediately. The government may then compensate the original owners, he has implored repeatedly.
Both BJP party chief Amit Shah and RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat will be at the Kumbh Mela on Thursday. A day following that, on Friday, the VHP will be holding its Dharam Sansad at Kumbh.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is yet to announce when it will conduct its next hearing in the Ayodhya title suit case. The hearing was supposed to have been held on Tuesday but wasn't as Justice Bobde who is a member of the 5-judge Constitution Bench that has been formed to hear the matter was unavailable due to medical reasons.