Days ahead of the grand foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Ram Temple on August 5 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the shadow of the coronavirus is hovering over Ayodhya after a priest and 16 security personnel tested positive for Covid-19 Thursday.
Priest Pradeep Das, who has caught the virus and has been put in home quarantine, is the ‘shishya’ of the chief priest Acharya Satendra Das and is one of the four priests who performs puja regularly at the Ram Janmbhoomi's makeshift temple.
The team conducts the ritual as per the Supreme Court directions since the demolition of the Babri mosque. The sspooked city administration has started contact tracing and some media personnel who interviewed Pradeep Das on Wednesday will also be tested.
The city reported 66 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Till date, 605 people have been discharged from hospitals while there were 375 active cases. Thirteen people have died in the district so far due to coronavirus. The state reported its maximum new cases -- 3,705 -- on Thursday with 56 deaths.
The developments have cast a shadow over the grant event as over 200 dignitaries, including the PM, chief minister Yogi Adityanath, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti are set to visit the city for the August 5 event.
The Ram Mandir Teerth Kshetra Trust has erected two waterproof ‘pandals’ and a small platform for the bhoomi pujan.
Social activist Saket Gokhale had moved the Allahabad High Court early this week seeking a restraining order on the bhoomi pujan arguing that the event is likely to violate physical distancing guidelines prescribed by both the Centre and the state government to stop the coronavirus from spreading. However, the High Court dismissed his petition on July 24.
There has been stiff opposition to the live telecast of the ceremony as well. Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam on Sunday wrote to the Centre opposing the telecast. He said the use of the channel to broadcast the religious function at Ayodhya is contrary to the “accepted norms of national integrity”.
Don’t come to Ayodhya: Trust
Amid preparations for the grand big event, the Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra has said, "We urge all devotees not to visit Ayodhya, and instead watch the live broadcast of the 'Pujan' from their homes."
Sivaganga MP Karti Chidambaram has hit out at the Centre saying that India does not need 'any new place of worship'. Taking to Twitter, Chidambaram said that he is 'baffled' by the timing of the 'bhoomi pujan' as it coincides with 'Rahu kaalam'.
"Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan Muhurta- Its astrological meaning? The choice of time baffles me, Wednesday 12 to 1.30 pm is Rahu Kaalam. No one starts anything auspicious during this period. I stick to my stated position, we don’t need any new place of worship," Chidambaram said.
Claiming that India doesn’t need any new temple, church, mosque, gurudwara or any place of worship, Chidambaram said that 'we have enough places of worship which need restoration, renovation and preservation'.