The airport in Ayodhya, which will be inaugurated on Saturday, December 30, has been renamed ‘Maharishi Valmiki International Airport Ayodhya Dham’, after poet Valmiki, who is celebrated as the author of the epic Ramayana. The airport was earlier called the ‘Maryada Purshottam Shri Ram Ayodhya International Airport’.
The newly-constructed airport will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 30, days before the consecration ceremony of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The grand consecration ceremony will be held on January 22, 2024.
On the day it is inaugurated, the first flights will be operated by IndiGo and Air India Express. The two airlines have already announced flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad to Ayodhya, commencing in January 2024.
The cost of the first phase of construction for the airport is estimated to be nearly Rs 1,450 crore. The new terminal building, spanning 6,500 square metres, is designed to accommodate 600 peak-hour passengers, with an annual handling capacity of 10 lakh passengers. Sources said that the second phase of development will include the construction of a new terminal building spanning 50,000 square metre, capable of handling 3,000 passengers during peak hours and 60 lakh passengers annually.
Babri Masjid, built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur in 1528, was demolished by kar sevaks belonging to Hindu majoritarian outfits on December 6, 1992. The demolition, which happened as a result of a concerted Ram Janmabhoomi movement, resulted in communal riots over months, which led to over 2,000 deaths. The Babri Masjid has been a contested site since 1885 as religious leaders and Hindutva outfits considered it Ram Janambhoomi or the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.
A legal fight ensued in 1950 when Gopal Visharad Sharma approached Faizabad district court for the right to worship idols of Ram Lalla, which were placed there in 1949. On September 30, 2010, the High Court, in a 2:1 majority, ruled a three-way division of the disputed area between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Nine years later, in 2019, the Supreme Court granted the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land to deity Ram Lalla and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to allot five acres of land to Muslims for building a mosque. Though the Supreme Court referred to the mosque's demolition as "an egregious violation of the rule of law," the verdict was criticised for accepting the logic of "faith over fact" and granting legal possession of land to those responsible for the demolition.
(With IANS inputs)