What’s the real issue here? Not the temple

Ashish Tripathi | TNN

Construction of a township and not Ram temple was a deciding factor in Lok Sabha polls for Faizabad constituency, which includes Ayodhya, in 2009. The fact, ironically, was overlooked by politicians and media, which do want to look beyond the dispute because it sells in other parts of the country.

The township was a Rs 700-crore project proposed on nine km stretch comprising 1695 acre of agriculture land on river Saryu’s bank. Besides being an environmental hazard, it would have displaced over 50,000 families living in 21 villages. The green belt is also the main source of fresh vegetables and fruits for Faizabad. The district is dependent for milk on livestock reared by farmers. But the township threatened to convert fertile land into a concrete jungle. It  would have left thousands of vegetable/fruit vendors jobless.
Interestingly, conceived during the Mulayam regime and was being implement in Mayawati rule, the project was affecting Yadavs and Dalit the most. People lodged protest but their pleas went unheard. Candidates of BSP, BJP and SP for the Faizabad LS seat remained silent but Congress candidate Nirmal Khattri opposed the project, saying “A township should be built to meet the need of growing population but not on the river bank but on the barren land”.
Khattri got people’s support and defeated SP’s Mitrasen Yadav. BJP came third and BSP fourth. The result forced Mayawati to put the project in abeyance. “But the displacement threat looms as the project has not been scrapped yet,” said Shyam Lal Nishad, a local resident.
A Simian Sanctuary
If the twin temple towns have seen any kind of citizen campaign in the recent past, it was not for the temple, but against simian menace. A few months ago, the Faizabad DM office was flooded with 10,000 postcards sent by people demanding development of sanctuaries to rehabilitate 20,000 monkeys. The Faizabad district hospital receives 100-150 bite cases a month and equal number are reported in private clinics. More than a temple and a mosque, people want an end to monkey menace. They believe a sanctuary for monkeys (symbol of Lord Hanuman) would be a better service to Lord Ram.

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