Clearly spooked by the raging pandemic, the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has trimmed its guest list from 200 to 170 for the August 5 bhoomi pujan ceremony.
In a press conference held in Ayodhya on Monday evening, the general secretary of the trust, Champat Rai, said that 135 seers and dignitaries are likely to attend the rituals on August 5 along with other dignitaries.
Though Rai did not elaborate on the number of other dignitaries, sources said the total guest list is now 170 which means only 35 dignitaries will attend the event with the PM. “This number can be trimmed further depending on corona outbreak situation,” a VHP leader says.
Incidentally, Uma Bharti has announced that she won’t come to Ayodhya in the view of the pandemic situation. Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani were not attending it anyway.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Babri litigants Iqbal Ansari are the only two “dignitaries” confirmed so far.
Invitation cards are being sent to others, said Rai. It is unclear how the cards will reach invitees in such a short time. Most of them have been told over the phone, said seers.
The Trust has stipulated strict rules for all guests. They will have to show ID cards and leave mobile and all belongings at their place of stay.
Ayodhya district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha, who is overseeing the entire event as the administrator and ex officio trustee, wrote a letter to the superintendent of police warning him about the “outbreak of corona” due to crowd, vehicular traffic and violation of pandemic rules in the city which is gearing up to welcome Prime Minister and other dignitaries on Wednesday.
Jha asked him to prohibit the vehicles other than media OB vans around “Ram ki Paidhi” on Sarayu river from 2 pm onwards on August 4. “Please ensure that no other person apart from those related to the media, volunteers who will light the diyas and guests is allowed here. Also, ensure that everyone wears a mask, follow social distancing and put up barricading on all roads to Ayodhya,” DM’s letter says.
The letter virtually bars commoners from attending the much publicised Diwali on Sarayu on preceding night of the Bhoomi pujan; more than security it is for pandemic reasons.
Ayodhya’s Covid-19 tally has touched 1,350 with addition of 16 new cases Monday. This includes another priest of Ram Janmabhoomi makeshift temple.
Coronavirus has gripped Uttar Pradesh over the last few days and the tally is nearing one lakh. The state added more than 4,400 cases to its tally on Monday in which Lucknow tops with 507 cases, which has alarmed the authorities.
Cabinet minister-Mahendra Singh and BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh had tested positive and Minister for Technical Education Kamal Rani had lost life to the virus Sunday.