A day after the Central government announced the composition of the 'Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teertha Kshetra' trust set up for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, a rift between the Hindu seers associated with the Janmabhoomi movement has come to the fore.
The exclusion of Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the chief of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas – a trust formed by the Vishva Hindu Parishad in January 1993 soon after the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, has ruffled feathers within the VHP.
The Centre on Wednesday, 5 February, constituted an independent 15-member trust to oversee the construction of a “grand and magnificent” Ram temple in Ayodhya, an announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha, four days before the expiry of a 3-month deadline set by the Supreme Court.
At the moment, the 15-member Trust includes a senior advocate, seers from several Hindu maths across India, Nirmohi Akhara, Ayodhya’s royal family head, locals from Ayodhya and a Dalit.
Senior lawyer Kesava Iyengar Parasaran, often referred to as Ram’s advocate, will be leading the 15-member trust. Before Parasaran, it was expected that Mahant Gopal Das will be the head of the Trust.
Das’ designated successor and senior member of the Nyas, Mahant Kamal Nayan Das said Gopal Das, had probably not been included in the newly formed trust since he and VHP vice president Champat Rai are accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
He said, “Once the legal cases end, I am sure Mahant Gopal Das will be the head of the Trust.”
Gopal Das is the head priest of Ayodhya’s largest temple, Mani Ram Das ki Chavani, and has worked for the construction of Ram temple for three decades.
He had earlier said that the exclusion of certain saints who have “devoted their lives” for the cause of Ram Mandir, including him, was an “insult to the people of Ayodhya.”
However, a phone call from Home Minister Amit Shah seemed to have pacified the agitated saints in Ayodhya who have postponed a meeting scheduled to be held at Digambar Akhara on Thursday, 6 Feb evening. Mahant Gopal Das later told reporters that he was ready to 'give some time' to BJP leaders on the issue, IANS reported.
The local BJP MLA Ved Prakash Gupta who had earlier been turned away, also met the Mahant and pacified the saints.
‘Ram’s Advocate’ to Head 15-Member Trust
K Parasaran, the 93-year-old senior lawyer, was the lead counsel for all Hindu parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute case. He had successfully fought in the Supreme Court for the possession of the entire disputed land for the deity “Ram Lalla Virajman.”
He has also allowed his house in Delhi’s Greater Kailash to be set up as the Trust’s office.
'Spent Our Lives Fighting For Ram Janmabhoomi’: Religious Heads From Hindu Maths Part of Trust
Prominent seers from different Hindu maths across India, associated with the VHP and the Ram Mandir movement for long, have been included in the Trust.
VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal said, “All of them are prominent seers from their respective maths and have been actively involved with the Ayodhya movement. They have devoted major portions of their lives to the struggle.”
Jagatguru Shankracharya Jyothishpeethadheeshwar Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj , a prominent seer from Prayagraj, has been a close aide and confidante of VHP’s Ashok Singhal since 1984 when the VHP’s Ram Mandir movement was engineered. The other seers who have been chosen are Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj, Pejawar Math in Udupi, Yugpurush Paramanand Ji Maharaj from Haridwar, Swami Govind Dev Giri Ji Maharaj from Pune.
Mahant Dinendra Das of Nirmohi Akhara has also been included in the Trust. Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main Hindu petitioners, claimed to have worshipped Lord Ram for over seven centuries.
Supreme Court, in its November judgment, had said that the Nirmohi Akhara is not a shebait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla and its suit was barred by limitation. But the court had said that the Akhara must be given one appropriate role in the management of the Ram Mandir trust.
One Dalit in 15-Member Ram Mandir Trust
Among the 15 members in the Trust, one is from the Scheduled Caste, Kameshwar Chaupal from Patna. He had laid the foundation stone of Ram Temple in 1989 during the ‘shilanyas’ organised by the VHP. Chaupal is a member of the Bihar Legislative Council. He contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Supaul, Bihar on the BJP ticket but couldn’t gain much ground.
The VHP, in December, had asked for a Dalit priest for the proposed temple. Vinod Bansal said, “We welcome the inclusion of a member from the marginalised community in the Trust. It is a important to have representation from every section of the society.”
UP CM Yogi Adityanath hailed the move as “historic” and tweeted, “The first brick for Ram Mandir was placed by Shri Kameshwar Chaupal from the Dalit community. One member in the 15-member Trust will be from Dalit community. I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this decision.”
'Nothing to Do With Ramjanmabhoomi Movement’: Seers Disapprove of Ayodhya Locals in Trust
Several seers have disapproved of the Modi government’s move to include members who have had ‘nothing to do with the Ram janmabhoomi movement’.
Commenting on Ayodhya’s royal family head, Bimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra, Mahant Gopal Das said Mishra was a political leader who had contested an election on a BSP ticket and had no contribution to the Ram janmabhoomi struggle.
Besides Ayodhya’s Raja, a homoeopathic doctor in Ayodhya and RSS ideologue Anil Mishra’s inclusion in the Trust has invited criticism.
Mahant Suresh Das of Digambar Akhara has also voiced his opposition to the new Trust which "includes those who were nowhere in the temple movement."
Mahant Paramhans Das of Tapasvi Chavni, who had put forward the name of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat as head of the Trust, has started an indefinite fast in protest at the Bilardeeh Shiva temple in Chandauli.
Other Members of the Ram Mandir Trust
Two prominent people who shall be practising Hindus will be nominated by the board of trustees with a majority resolution. One representative will be nominated by the Centre who shall be a practising Hindu by religion and a serving member of the IAS and who shall not be below the rank of joint secretary to Government of India and shall be an ex officio member.
Another representative will be nominated by the UP government who shall be a practising Hindu and an IAS officer and shall not be below the rank of secretary to the UP government and shall be an ex officio member.
The District Magistrate of Ayodhya will be the ex-officio trustee.
If for any reason the incumbent magistrate is not a practising Hindu, the additional magistrate of Ayodhya who shall be a practising Hindu shall be an ex officio member.
The chairman of the committee for the development and administration of matters relating to the Ram Temple complex will be appointed by the Board of Trustees, shall be a practising Hindu and shall be an ex officio member.