- With the temple verdict expected any day now, some are hoarding food and essentials, while others have begun shifting women and children out to places they feel are safe
- Some are even cancelling weddings or moving venues outside the district
Rapid Action Force (RPF) and Uttar Pradesh Police personnel patrol a street in Ayodhya (PTI photo)
AYODHYA: In Ayodhya these days, the air is thick with apprehension and anxiety. With the temple verdict expected any day now, the town’s residents are making whatever preparations they can – some are hoarding food and essentials, while others have quietly begun shifting women and children out to places they feel are safe.
Some are even cancelling weddings or moving venues outside the district. A middle-aged tailor in Syedwada, a neighborhood with a significant number of Muslim families living alongside temples and Hindu households, said, “They (locals residents) talk among themselves and say that Syedwada will be targeted this time. It is worrisome. ”
The man , who didn’t want to give out his name, added, “They are saying there will be trouble if the judgment is not in favor of the Ram temple. What will we do in such a situation if not send our families away? ”Many in the community had done the same when in November last year VHP andShiv Senamembers descended on the town.
Some distance away, Ghanshyam Gupta, whose family has been selling ladoos outside the famous Hanuman Garhi temple for three generations, said, “We have made suitable arrangements and are stocking rice and lentils at home.” Umar Farooq, a litigant in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, said he’s seen it all – the violence in 1990, the demolition ofBabri Masjidin 1992 and the arson that followed, the tension around the high court judgment of 2010, and when the Shiv Sena marched into Ayodhya in November last year.
“Through all this, Ayodhya residents never had problems with one another. Trouble starts when a mob comes from outside. That’s when there is chaos for us, ”he added. The district administration, meanwhile, is holding peace gatherings with community leaders and is even formingWhatsAppgroups for real-time communication and deployment of additional forces in the event of an emergency.
District magistrate Anuj K Jha told TOI that a number of meetings in October and November with Hindu mahants and Muslim imams had been held to address worries and give assurances of safety. “We have assured Muslims that a survey of all sensitive areas, including minority-dominant ones and those with mixed populations, has already been done and we will be deploying forces ahead of the verdict. There is no need for people to panic. Our focus is peace and protection in the whole of Ayodhya, ”Jha said.
However, apprehension is still running deep . In October, the Muslim community’s nervousness became apparent when a meeting was called at the house of Haji Mahboob, another litigant in the dispute, to get their concerns addressed. “Security was beefed up in Ayodhya in 2010 when the high court was to pronounce a judgment. Things will be fine if there is a similar bandobast in place. But people are scared. Many haven’t been able to forget 1992. ”
He has a point. Syed Khalique Ahmed’s son was to get married in December. But feeling that the situation is “not conducive” for a celebration, Ahmed not just changed the venue of the wedding from Faizabad to Lucknow but also got his son married in early November itself. Hotel owners in Ayodhya echoed Ahmed’s sentiment.
Pawan Singh, manager of the Birla Dharmashala, meters away from Hanuman Garhi, said, “People have cancelled bookings for venues and rooms, not just for November and December but until February next year. Whoever is saying normal life in Ayodhya has not been disrupted is not telling the truth. ”
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