October 19, 2016

India: Times of India Editorial on Ramayana Museum in Ayodhya

The Times of India

Ayodhya beckons: Boosting tourism is good for local economy, parties must refrain from politicising holy city

October 19, 2016, 2:00 am IST in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI
As competitive poll politics hots up in UP, Ayodhya is back to dominate discourse. It was visited by controversial culture minister Mahesh Sharma yesterday, apparently to oversee preparations for a modern Ramayana Museum as part of a Rs 225 crore cultural project. BJP maintains construction of a Ram temple is not on its agenda but needs to rein in leaders who have been giving conflicting signals – the most recent instances being Cabinet minister Uma Bharti and BJP MP Vinay Katiyar. The move to build a museum, in tandem with plans for a Ramayana, Krishna and Buddhist tourist circuit, will benefit tourism and provide jobs to locals.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav was quick to identify a 25 acre plot for the spacious museum which will showcase Rama’s journey as depicted in Valmiki’s epic. Not wanting BJP to run away with the credit for putting Ayodhya on the tourist circuit, the SP government has allocated crores for renovation of existing monuments. It has approved plans for an international Ramlila centre which will include a theme park. Plans are also afoot to build an amphitheatre and parikrama path along the ghats of the Saryu River in Ayodhya, along with upgrading the almost three-decade-old Ram Katha Museum.
Despite attracting over a crore domestic pilgrims every year, Ayodhya’s tourism prospects are hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure. Sound investment can transform the ancient city into a hub for tourists willing to spend money. The ultimate beneficiary will be the local population who have lost out in the past two decades due to communal tension, following the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. Politicising Ayodhya will only risk the fragile peace. Political parties must emphasise development and jobs, not religious strife.