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'Temple construction will begin in April'

February 14, 2020 09:23 IST
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'We would try our best that the temple structure becomes visible in the next two years.'

Ram Temple model

IMAGE: A model of the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Kameshwar Chaupal wanted to pursue an academic career after completing his post graduation and joined a college in Bihar's Madhubani district in the early 1980s.

After he encountered a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak, he joined the RSS.

Chaupal left his teaching job and joined the RSS as a wholetimer. Later, he was deputed to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Last week, Chaupal was appointed a member of the the Shri Ramjanmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra, the 15- member trust which will oversee construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Chaupal is the only Dalit and only political leader in the trust.

Chaupal spent many years working as a Vishwa Hindu Parishad wholetimer in undivided Bihar, mainly in the tribal-dominated rural areas that are now located in present day Jharkhand.

On November 9, 1989, he laid the first brick for the foundation of the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Later, Chaupal was asked to join the BJP and contested the 1991 Lok Sabha election from the Rosera reserved seat in Bihar. He was defeated by Ram Vilas Paswan, currently a member of Narendra Damodardas Modi's Cabinet.

He contested the 1995 and 2000 Bihar assembly elections from the Bakhri reserved seat, but was defeated.

After unsuccessfully contested elections thrice, he was twice elected a member of Bihar's legislative council.

He contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Supaul, but was defeated by Congress candidate Ranjeeta Ranjan,

Chaupal, 65, belongs to Bihar's Chaupal Dalit community. He was born in a poor family in a remote village in flood-prone Supaul district.

Upbeat and confident that the Ram temple construction will commence on Ramnavmi in early April, Chaupal spoke to Contributor Imran Khan at his home in Patna, ahead of the first meeting of the trust on February 19.

You are the only Dalit member of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra, you are also the only political leader in the trust. Can you tell why the government chose you?

It was a moment of good luck when I was informed that I was chosen a member of this trust.

I have been associated with the movement for construction of the Ram temple for 36 years and was chosen by Hindu sants to lay the first brick for construction of the temple in 1989.

I am the only Dalit in the trust and I was chosen by Prime Minister Narendra (Damodardas) Modi and Union Home Minister Amit (Anilchandra) Shah.

There is no denying the fact that I am the only political leader who is a member of the trust.

I am an active BJP leader.

Being Hindu is the first and primary condition for becoming a member of the trust.

It is true to some extent that my Dalit background helped me become a member. It mainly contributed to my entry in the trust.

Apart from this, my commitment and devotion for the construction of the temple were also taken into consideration.

Look, I am an accidental politician because I was and I am more interested to devote my life in the service of the marginalised as an RSS pracharak.

My interest was not in politics. I am not fit for politics, but when I was asked by the RSS to join active politics in the early 1990s, I had to do it.

Till 1991, I was working as a wholetimer of the VHP and never thought that one day I would join the BJP and become a leader.

Did you expect after you performed the shilanyas for the Ram temple 30 years ago that the temple would become a reality in your lifetime?

Certainly not. I never thought it would be possible in my lifetime, but I was hopeful that one day a temple would be constructed in Ayodhya.

There was a time when so-called historians and intellectuals were not ready to accept Lord Ram as a historical figure.

He was described as a mythological hero and they rejected the idea of his birthplace in Ayodhya.

Now even the Supreme Court has accepted it and things have been cleared for construction of the temple.

I was 35 when I laid the first brick on November 9, 1989 during the shilanyas. I was then working in Bihar's Gaya district as a VHP wholetimer.

I was part of the first yatra in Sitamarhi district, consider the birthplace of Sita, to mobilise support for the Ram temple.

This took place in the mid 1980s, during the initial days of the movement for construction of the temple

Ahead of the shilanyas I collected bricks from thousands of people in Gaya and arrived in Ayodhya to contribute as a kar sevak without knowing that I would become part of a historic moment when VHP leader Ashok Singhal chose me for the shilanyas.

IMAGE: Kameshwar Chaupal. Photograph: Imran Khan

Why was L K Advani, who led the Ram temple movement from the late 1980s till a decade ago, not made a member of this trust?

If Advaniji was made a member of the trust, an unnecessary controversy would have cropped up because Advanjiji is an accused in the case related to the Babri Masjid demolition.

Advaniji was kept away from the trust rightly by those who decided to ensure no further dispute or controversy for construction of the temple.

Who will fund the temple construction?

Money for construction of the temple would come from society. Each person in each village and town will donate.

The trust has to come out with solid management to collect money full of transparency.

Transparency in the matter of fund collection is a must.

Will construction of the temple start this year?

It is my wish that construction of the temple should start as soon as possible.

It is likely to commence in early April.

We would try our best that the temple structure becomes visible in the next two years.

Prayers would start as soon as possible for devotees.

It is God's work. I am confident that it will be done.

We want that the foundation for the construction of the temple should be laid by Prime Minister Modi, the way President Rajendra Prasad laid the foundation stone of the Somnath temple.

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