New Delhi : Saffron flags will flutter all over the capital Sunday as thousands of Hindu activists gather for a rally to protest the proposed demolition of the “historic” Ram Setu bridge off the Tamil Nadu coast to make way for a shipping canal project.
“Around one million people will converge to Delhi for the Dec 30 Virat Sammelan rally. More than 2,000 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists are engaged in preparations for it for the last one month,” said Anil Kumar, a member of VHP.
Over 40 Hindu organisations associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) would take part in the rally at the Japanese Garden in Rohini, west Delhi, which is being organised under the banner of Rameshwaram Ramsetu Raksha Manch.
Addressing a press conference here Thursday, VHP leader Ashok Singhal said: “I have spoken to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and he has assured that arrangements would be made for the people coming via train from different parts of the country to attend the rally.”
According to VHP member Vinod Bansal, the Ram Setu ‘shilapujan yatras’, rallies to protest damage to the Setu, have proved very effective in “educating people about the destruction of Ram Setu. Hundreds of such yatras are being taken out all over the country, including in remote villages.”
Bansal told IANS that temples, dharmashalas (free lodgings), community centres and several schools in the capital have been booked for the ‘Ram bhaktas’ coming from different states.
“We have so far booked 1,000 temples, 70 schools, 250 community centres and more than 50 dharmashalas for four days from Dec 28 to 31,” said Bansal.
He said a massive awareness programme is being undertaken all over the country to urge people to attend the rally.
“Prominent among such activities is the Ram Sethu shilapujan yatra. It began in Delhi on Nov 20 and concluded on Dec 16 after traversing several districts. Besides, two million pamphlets are being distributed in Delhi to educate people about the destruction of the Ram Setu, the symbol of our great cultural heritage,” said Anil Kumar, another member.
The VHP has also decided to turn the whole capital saffron. All main roads of Delhi will be decorated with saffron flags and buntings. People will be requested to hoist saffron flags atop their houses that day. Welcome camps will be set up at all prominent borders of Delhi for the rallyists.
The ‘Ram bhaktas’ will be provided with food packets and water as well as medicines if required. Workers will fan out in the capital from Saturday to ask people to donate food for the rallyists.
Invitations have been issued to nearly 1,000 guests, including all Members of Parliament irrespective of party affiliations, for the rally that will be addressed by VHP leaders and Hindu holy men, said Kumar.
Ram Setu or Adam’s bridge is a chain of limestone shoals forming a link between Sri Lanka and India. The setu, which holds a sacred place in the heart of many Hindus, finds evidence in the ancient texts of Ramayana, which mentions that, Lord Ram and his army of monkeys built the setu to rescue Sita, who was abducted by King of Lanka, Ravana.
The dredging of Ram Setu was undertaken when the Indian government gave its nod to the multi-million dollar Sethusamudram project, which requires breaking a portion of Ram Setu to make the route navigable for ships around the Indian peninsula.