India's Eyes on Ayodhya, Uneasy Calm and Hope for Peace Floats in Holy City
As the administration intensifies security in anticipation of the crucial Supreme Court judgement, both Hindu and Muslim residents say they do not expect a repeat of the 1992 violence and would welcome the decision, no matter what it is.
File photo of Ayodhya railway station.
Ayodhya, UP: Traffic crawls at Ayodhya’s Tedhi Bazar Chauraha as vehicles go through routine checking at the crossroads that has signage of Ramjanmabhoomi on one side and Udasin Ashram towards the other. Moderate police presence can be spotted at this key intersection in the temple town, which leads to Hanuman Garhi, and then to Ramjanmabhoomi, the epicentre of a decades-old dispute that over the years turned into the biggest religio-political flashpoint in independent India.
A businessman who runs a popular sweets shop at Tedhi Bazar Chauraha did not wish to reveal his name, but was upbeat while saying this was the main traffic junction of Ayodhya and there were no signs of any “tension”. “Our shop is decades old; we have been in business for quite some time. You can see no tension or any such thing is prevailing in Ayodhya. Even the cops are on routine duty. We (locals) are sure nothing unwanted will happen, though everyone is keenly waiting for the faisla (Supreme Court verdict) on Ram temple,” he said, adding that nuisance, if any, is mostly created by outsiders and not locals.
As we moved ahead, Kishan Singh, who has a small paan shop, applauded the efforts of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath for putting up a grand lights show on Diwali and focusing global attention on Ayodhya with another world record. While applauding the government’s celebrations including fireworks, however, he said it would have been better if the money had been given to the needy instead. He also expressed confidence that the apex court’s verdict would come “in favour of Ram Lalla and soon a grand temple of Lord Ram would be built at his birthplace in Ayodhya”.
Close by, two Muslim families selling khadau (wooden slippers) usually worn by ascetics refuse to speak at first, but then gradually reveal their apprehensions. Mohammad Ismail, who has a small shop in the main market area, has been selling the khadaus and other wooden items for decades. He said he was not concerned about what the decision of the court might be; all he wants is peace. “The last time when riots took place in 1992, our shop was vandalised and somehow we managed to save ourselves. It was mostly outsiders who participated in such activities. We decided to stay back, and then curfew was imposed. We didn’t have anything to eat for several days. We somehow managed to survive as the shop was shut and we could not go out.”
As a precautionary measure, he said, he had already shifted most of his family members to their relatives’ homes ahead of the Ayodhya verdict.
“I will stay back and assess the situation this time, and will move out if required. There is an uneasy calm, which nobody is talking about, but deep down Muslims like me are scared and many have shifted from their houses in Ayodhya,” added Ismail.
However, another Muslim family from Durahi Kuan locality, where many members of the community live, said that they were sure the past would not repeat itself. On condition of anonymity, the head of the family said, “Things have changed since 1992, and now we are sure nothing like that will happen. Heavy force has already been deployed by the administration and somehow there is no fear or anything like that at the local level. We will be staying back no matter what the verdict is. I think everyone should welcome the decision of the Supreme Court. Ayodhya is our home. Where else will we go?”
Similar views were expressed by another Muslim family residing in the Golaghat area. “Our generation has seen enough bloodshed; we don’t want any violence anymore. We want to live in peace with our Hindu brothers, we live in a cordial manner and we never had any trouble with anyone in the name of Mandir-Masjid. The matters get out of hands only when uncontrollable crowds pour in from outside. However, the government seems to be taking the right measures to ensure peace and harmony,” said a local resident on the condition of anonymity.
The Ayodhya dispute is over 2.77 acres of land in the Uttar Pradesh town, which many Hindus believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram. A 16th Century mosque, said to have been built by Mughal Emperor Babur that stood at the spot was, torn down in December 1992 by right-wing activists, triggering communal riots. On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts: the site of the Ram Lalla idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the installed infant Ram deity), Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Wakf Board to get the rest. All three parties then appealed against the decision in the Supreme Court.
Security has been tightened in Ayodhya ahead of the top court decision and intelligence agencies have been put on high alert. Additional forces will be deployed in the coming days. The task for the Ayodhya administration to maintain peace has got more challenging as the 14 Kosi Parikrama and Panch Kosi Parikrama religious events are being held from November 5-8. Besides, the Karthik Purnima Snan will also take place here on November 11, which means a heavy influx of devotees from outside.
Speaking to News18 on the issue of security and crowd management, district magistrate Anuj Jha said, “Adequate security arrangements have been made. All the service departments have also been assigned their respective tasks. Also, the Supreme Court’s verdict is expected soon. Force deployment has been done accordingly so that all the health facilities, schools, coming of devotees should remain normal. Section 144 was already in force and it has been extended but it won’t affect religious and legal activities. Some people were worried about marriage functions. I want to assure them that everything will go on normally and if anyone faces any issues, then we are available round the clock for their help."
Leaves of administrative officers in Uttar Pradesh have already been cancelled till November 30 as a precautionary measure as the judgement is expected to be pronounced by November 17, the retirement day of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who is heading the bench that concluded hearing the matter on October 16. The other members of the bench are justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.
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