Year since groundbreaking, construction of temple at Babri Mosque site faces hurdles including corruption allegations
NEW DELHI (AA) – A year after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of a grand Ram Temple at the site of the demolished historic Babri Mosque, the construction has faced many hurdles, including allegations of a scam in the purchase of land.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held in the northern city of Ayodhya on Aug. 5, 2020.
Soon after the inauguration, the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra — the trust overseeing the construction of the temple — had to modify the construction plan as a stream of the nearby Saryu River was found flowing beneath.
After taking advice from experts, additional concrete layers have been included in the foundation.
The 15-member trust headed by Mahant Nritya Gopal Das was set up in February 2020 after the country’s top court gave its nod for the construction of the Ram temple in November 2019.
Meanwhile, religious leaders in Ayodhya have accused each other of alleged misuse of donations collected for the construction of the temple.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mahant Paramhans Das of Tapasvi Chhawani in Ayodhya said the amount collected for the construction should be transferred to the Trust, which is the only body authorized to utilize the funds. Earlier, in a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, he alleged that several outfits constituted in the name of the Ram Temple movement had been collecting money from devotees over the last several decades.
Citing examples of misappropriation of funds, Sanjay Singh, a member of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), alleged that 1.2 hectares (about 12,000 square meters) of land near the temple was bought by Sultan Ansari and Ravi Mohan Tiwari from Kusum Pathak and Harish Pathak on March 18 at the cost of 20 million rupees ($269,000).
But just five minutes after the purchase, Champat Rai, general secretary of the Trust, with the help of another member Anil Mishra, bought the same land for temple construction from Sultan Ansari and Ravi Mohan Tiwari for 185 million rupees ($ 2.4 million) out of which 170 million rupees ($2.2 million) were given as advance.
Rai, however, in a statement refuted the charges. He said land was purchased at lower prices than the market rate. He said it was important to acquire some properties adjacent to the east and west side of the Ram Temple complex “to create easy access for pilgrims”.
The 400-year-old Babri Mosque was razed to the ground on Dec. 6, 1992, by a large group of activists belonging to the Hindu nationalist organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). They claimed that the mosque stood on the birthplace of Lord Ram.