Over 300 individuals, including activists, lawyers and members of the National Federation of Indian Women, have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not attend the foundation ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday.

The signatories, including Aruna Roy, the president of the National Federation of Indian Women, and Sutapa Bhattacharya from the Communist Party of India, expressed disappointment at Modi’s participation in the ceremony. “The matter of faith and freedom of religion is a personal choice and a fundamental freedom of every citizen,” the statement said. The group added that the principles upheld by the Constitution applied to Modi as well.

“The Constitution of India makes it clear that the government and Prime Minister should remain neutral to, and above, all religions, thus upholding the values of secular India,” the signatories wrote. “The Prime Minister going to Ayodhya to lay the foundation of the temple undermines our secular framework, and clearly endorses the majoritarian Hindutva agenda, despite his claims of building an inclusive India. It implies the negation of the Constitutional values.”

The prime minister should take special care to ensure that “he is not seen as partisan towards one faith or religion”, the group said. The statement also highlighted the Centre’s guidelines under “Unlock 3” that prohibits large gatherings. “The Prime Minister’s participation in a ceremony of this kind is bound to send a message of double standards practiced by the highest public functionaries of India,” the statement said. “The priorities of the government today should be to confront the economic and health crisis.”

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