A large billboard in Times Square displayed an image of the Ram Mandir model, along with an image of the deity and the Indian flag. The advertisement was displayed at the corner of the 47th Street and Seventh Avenue on Wednesday. Ahead of the advertisement that was displayed on the day of the bhoomi pujan or groundbreaking ceremony, reports had stated that the planned Ram Temple advertisement was cancelled due to protests by Muslim groups in the US.
Jagdish Sewhani, President of the American India Public Affairs Committee that organised the Times Square celebrations and bought the prime billboard space disputed reports that the advertisement was to be cancelled. Sewhani told Associated Press that they were just celebrating a "once in a mankind" event and that the celebrations were not against anyone. "This is a once in a mankind event and we thought what better place for it than Times Square," he said.
As described by Sewhani, the American India Public Affairs Committee is a group of people concerned with India-US relations. The committee does not have a website and there is no corporation registered under its name, as stated by the report in Associated Press. Sewhani had also earlier described himself as one of the founders of the US wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, in an interview to South Asian Insider Show.
#WATCH USA: A digital billboard of #RamMandir comes up in New York’s Times Square.— ANI (@ANI) August 5, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed 'Bhoomi Pujan' of #RamMandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh earlier today. pic.twitter.com/Gq4Gi2kfvR
The coalition opposing the advertisements had written to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio asking him to stop the display. Shaik Ubaid, President of Indian Minorities Advocacy Network told the news agency that the ads glamorise a cruel act. "They are so confident they are doing this in Times Square, the heart of America," he told the news agency.
The coalition had also called major advertising companies to not run the ads on their billboards. Advertising company Branded Cities had told the coalition that they would not run ads for the Ram Temple celebrations.
The Indian American Muslim Council hired a truck to display images of the now-demolished Babri Masjid. One of the images said, "Once stood this beautiful mosque in India which was demolished by Hindu extremists." The Indian American Muslim Council is part of the coalition protesting the ads.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in the bhoomi pujan or the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday. The PM first visited the Hanumangarhi Temple to offer his prayers. He also offered prayers to Ram Lalla before laying the foundation stone.