A priest in Ayodhya, who was scheduled to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony of the proposed Ram temple in the city, has tested positive for coronavirus. Along with the priest, 16 police personnel who were on duty at the site have also contracted the infection, according to reports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend the foundation stone laying ceremony on August 5.
According to a report in NDTV, Pradeep Das, assistant to the chief priest, said he has tested positive for coronavirus. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had gone to the site last Saturday to review preparations for the event. He was seen standing with the priest who has now tested positive, reports say.
A 'limited' gathering of 200 people is expected on August 5 and veteran BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat are among those invited. This ceremony will mark the beginning of the construction of the Ram temple at the formerly disputed spot. The ceremony will be shown live by Doordarshan, trustees of the temple had told PTI on Sunday. Besides the political leaders, an invitation has also been extended to spiritual leaders from all faiths, Anil Mishra, a member of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, had told PTI.
He said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions of social distancing, there would be a 'limited' gathering. Kameshwar Chaupal, another trustee of the temple, said top leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, including its chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, are also being invited for the event, along with VHP's working president Alok Kumar.
According to the Trust members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Ayodhya on August 5 for the ceremony to begin the construction of the Ram temple and will visit a Hanuman temple as well. Preparations are underway for his welcome to the city.
After a protracted legal tussle, the Supreme Court had on November 9, 2019 paved the way for the construction of a Ram Temple by a Trust at the disputed site in Ayodhya and directed the Centre to allot an alternative five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a new mosque at a "prominent" place in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday reported a record single-day spike of 3,570 COVID-19 cases, taking the infection tally to 77,334. Thirty-three new deaths pushed the toll to 1,530. There are 29,997 active COVID-19 cases in the state and 45,807 patients have been discharged after treatment.
(With PTI inputs)