In a massive development in the decades-long Ayodhya dispute, seers at the Dharam Sansad taking place at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj on Wednesday 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 also 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that this would not be in violation of any court order, citing how till the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict is superceded by the Supreme Court, it would continue to apply.
Here's what Republic's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had to say on the matter:
"I have been saying it for 3 months now and for years before that -- that Ayodhya must be heard on priority. I have been saying on loop, repeatedly and consistently, that if the Courts decide on Ayodhya, then the politics will not happen. That if the highest court of the country gives this issue some priority, then the polarisation will not happen. But the courts have delayed and delayed and delayed. Date after date after date. This dilly dallying has led to a situation that on the ground now-- we have the top saints announcing a date for a construction of a Mandir unilaterally. Such a unilateral announcement is not something that I approve of-- let me make that clear. But let me also make it clear that our lordships need to introspect that can the matter that directly affects hundreds of millions of Indians be put on a slow burner? A very slow burner, if not, I’m sorry to say-- the back burner."
While making the announcement, the seer also 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.
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.