Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday laid a symbolic 40-kg silver brick to formally launch the construction of a Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya city, 28 years after the demolition of Babri Masjid at the same site. The prime minister claimed that just as August 15 symbolises the end of India’s freedom struggle, August 5 symbolises the culmination of the fight for a Ram temple for centuries.
Here is how the country’s leading newspapers covered the foundation stone laying ceremony.
The Telegraph minced no words and said: “The book that begins with ‘We, the people of India’ is the God that we failed”. The newspaper said that “Raja and rishi are no longer separate in the Republic” as Modi participated in the event and declared all of India as “Ram-maya”, or suffused with Ram.
The 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya was claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. In November last year, the Supreme Court permitted the construction of the temple and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque.
The Indian Express ran the headline “Modi marks the Mandir” and chose to highlight the prime minister’s speech and the Opposition’s response to the ground-breaking ceremony. “For a nation, where almost half of the population has been born after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, how effective the Ram temple will be as an issue today is open to debate,” it said.
The speech was also the focus of the front pages of The Hindu, The Statesman and Hindustan Times.
The Asian Age headline read “PM Modi lays first brick of Ram Rajya” and pointed out that no Opposition or Congress leaders were invited to Wednesday’s event.
Meanwhile, Hindi newspapers – Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Jansatta, Rajasthan Patrika, Navbharat Times – all seemed to play up the event with headlines saying “Ayodhya’s Diwali”, “Everybody’s Ram”, “Ram is everybody’s and everywhere”, and had no critical commentary.
Sandesh, a leading Gujarati daily, led with a quote from Modi’s speech as it’s headline: “Ram Mandir will be a symbol of the nation’s sentiments and willpower”. A celebratory sub-head stated, “The auspicious day and moment that was awaited for five centuries has arrived – Ram will now rule in his darbar.”
Smaller reports on the front page highlighted the silver crown presented to Modi at the Hanuman Mandir and the reactions of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the event.
Gujarat Samachar highlighted its cover story on the Ayodhya event above its masthead, with the headline, “Ram for everyone, Ram in everyone, Jai Siya Ram: Modi lays the foundation stone of the Ram Mandir”. The sub-head claimed that the whole country is celebrating and asking, “now when will we have Ram rajya”.
Tamil daily Dinakaran ran a huge headline saying Modi laid the foundation stone in Ayodhya to build a Ram temple, along with a big picture. The article described the day’s schedule and focused on the high security in the area.
Dinamani ran a huge headline that read, “Beginning of India’s golden age!” Its strap said that Modi went to event and laid the foundation stone, while the blurb highlighted that he was the first prime minister to visit Ram Janmabhoomi.
Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika ran the headline “Rajdharma Ramdharma”. It highlighted Modi’s comparison of the fight for the Ram Temple with India’s freedom struggle. The daily also put up what Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said after the Ram Temple event.
However, in a separate box on top of the main headline, the newspaper put up the Preamble to the Constitution of India under the headline “Ganatantrer Dharma” or the duties of a democracy.