Ramayana Museum : It is for tourism, not politics, says BJP minister ahead of Ayodhya tour

Lucknow, Oct 18: The approaching elections in Uttar Pradesh have made the communally-sensitive town of Ayodhya a point of huge interest and activity again – and brought Lord Ram back to the centre of the BJP’s agenda.

Though the central government has refused to encourage talk about building a temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya, Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma will visit the town today to evaluate the location of a sprawling Ramayana museum, which will present the life of the deity as portrayed in the sage Valmiki’s epic.

In 1992, thousands of right-wing volunteers razed the 16th century Babri Masjid. The mosque, according to them, was built over the exact spot where Lord Ram was born – Ram Janmabhoomi.   Right-wing organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Prashad who brought down the mosque say a Ram temple must be built there.

“My visit to Ayodhya has nothing to do with UP Assembly elections. I am visiting there as a Tourism Minister. This is part of government’s effort to improve tourism in Ayodhya and all over the country,” Sharma told NDTV.

The Allahabad High Court in 2010 said the disputed site should be split equally between Muslims, Hindus and the large and wealthy Nirmohi Akhara sect -that verdict has been challenged in the Supreme Court by Hindu and Muslim organisations.

The museum has a 150-crore budget, will be located on a 25-acre plot, about 15 kms away from the disputed site. The government plans to develop a new tour linking it to other sites, including some in Nepal and Sri Lanka, of great significance in the Ramayana.

The BJP has been accused by political opponents of attempting a dangerous strategy to communalise voters and risk the fragile peace in Ayodhya; hard-liners like Union Minister Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar have made new comments calling for the construction of the temple.

However, yesterday, the state government of Akhilesh Yadav announced its own plans to develop what it described as an international theme park in Ayodhya based on the Ramlila: the part of the Ramayana that sees demon god Ravana being defeated by Lord Ram.

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