Locals, foreigners turned away as Raj Ghat closes for visitors ahead of Trump’s visit

NEW DELHI, Feb 24: The entry of local and foreign visitors to Raj Ghat was prohibited on Monday ahead of the scheduled visit of US President Donald Trump to the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, officials said.

Trump would visit Raj Ghat on Tuesday to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi.

“Tomorrow in Delhi, we will lay a wreath, plant a tree at Raj Ghat in honor of this leader (Mahatma Gandhi) who is revered all around the world,” Trump said on Monday at a public event in Ahmedabad’s Motera stadium.

Those turned away from the memorial included visitors from Canada, the US, France, El Salvador, the UK and a group of 18 tourists from Ireland, who arrived on a bus as part of a guided tour of the national capital, among others.

A tourist from El Salvadore who was accompanied by a man from the US told PTI, “I was not aware that the site would remain closed today. Now we are planning what to do next. The cab we had hired just left us here and it turns out nobody is allowed.”

Local visitors also said they were “disappointed” because of the “unannounced” closure of the memorial.

“I was hoping to spend some time here. I had come here after checking on Google, which showed Raj Ghat is open today till 6 pm,” said Manish, a local, who first dropped his younger sister at her examination centre in Chandni Chowk.

“I thought while my sister took her board exam, I will stay here till 1 pm and then return home with her. On my way to Raj Ghat, I had also checked spending time at the Red Fort but that too appeared was locked down for visitors. It is disappointing,” said Manish, who works for a private company in Gurgaon, but took a day off.

Mohammad Taufeeq, a native of Amethi district in Uttar Pradesh, had arrived at the site with his daughter Alizah and nephew Adnan but the trio, like several others, was unaware of the entry restrictions.

“I have come to Delhi to stay for a few days for treatment of my daughter’s tumour at AIIMS. It is a nice, sunny morning so I thought maybe the kids can spend some time playing and I will visit the memorial. But that is not happening now,” he told PTI.

Several others, including women and college-going youths, arrived at Raj Ghat on the banks of river Yamuna, only to get turned away by security officials who informed them about the closure.

“Visitors are not allowed today and tomorrow. Only officials working at Raj Ghat are being allowed,” a security official deployed at the entry gate told PTI, adding the press was also barred entry.

Heavy security was in place around Raj Ghat on Monday, even as dog squads and a bomb disposal squad remained at work inside the premises along with other personnel.

The municipal corporation is also leaving no stone unturned in preparation for Trump’s visit. The service lane outside the Raj Ghat was sprinkled multiple times with water by tankers of the municipal corporation, while labourers were busy clearing stones, pebbles and heaps of dust along the road.

Sikandar, a coconut slice vendor working in the area for years, said generally there is not as much security for visitors, except for the frisking at the entry gate.

“But this time it seems there is heavy security,” he said. (PTI)