Nearly 28 years after a ‘Ram Rath Yatra’ meant to mobilise Hindus for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya led to riots and the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a ‘Ram Rajya Rath Yatra’ is scheduled to start on February 13. Unlike the yatra in 1990, which saw the then BJP president Lal Krishna Advani getting arrested, the Union Home Ministry seems to be facilitating the procession this time, according to a report by Scroll.in. This even as the Supreme Court hears a case regarding the disputed site.
At least since early November last year, reports of the yatra have been trickling in from Uttar Pradesh, where Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will flag off the yatra from Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya. Final hearings in the Babri Masjid dispute began on December 5. The next hearing is on February 8.
Although it is the Shri Ramdas Mission Universal Society of Maharashtra that is heading the preparations for the procession, other Sangh bodies such as the RSS, the VHP, and the Muslim Rashtriya will also be participating in the event. The procession will travel through four other states – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh – before concluding in Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu on March 23. Around 40 public meetings will be held during the period of the yatra, according to the Scroll.in report.
It’s not just a Ram temple in Ayodhya that the yatra will be demanding. Among its central demands is also the inclusion of Ramayana in the educational curriculum in the country and shifting weekly holidays to Thursday from Sunday.
The VHP’s plan to resuscitate the movement for the construction of the temple had been reported in late November last year too, when a Dharma Sansad was held after a gap of 32 years. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had ordered opening of the locks of a makeshift temple after a Dharma Sansad demanded so in 1985.
The yatra itself might have been in the works before November though. The recent Scroll.in report shows a copy of a missive dated November 24 sent by the ‘VIP Security Unit’ of the home ministry, asking the DGPs of the states through which the yatra will pass to take “appropriate action”. The attached letter from Shri Ramdas Mission Universal Society, this missive states, was received on September 10.
Although the current yatra will be last for 39 days, individual VHP members have earlier spoken of a 14-month-long yatra, which would be symbolic of the 14-year-long exile of Ram narrated in Ramayana. “The rath yatra will be named ‘Ram rajya rath yatra’ that would start from Ayodhya and return after 14 months,” Krishnanand Saraswati of Kerala, a VHP saint, had told Hindustan Times earlier. A Dainik Jagran report from January speaks of an even longer yatra, with a phase each in 2018, 2019, and 2020.