An eerie silence has gripped the ‘disputed’ temple town of Ayodhya with the restrictions being imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC till December 10.
Unlike regular days, there is no sound of devout songs revering Hindu god Ram being played; no sloganeering of ‘Jai Shree Ram (Hail god Ram)’. People in large groups, especially young boys laden with backpacks, have gathered in large numbers to see the preparations ahead of the October 17 hearing—the last hearing in the Ayodhya Ram temple case in the Supreme Court.
The district administration has said that the decision to impose Section 144 is also because of the “ongoing festivals”.
The path leading to Hanumangarhi temple from Saryu Ghat, along with the makeshift temple at the disputed site, has been barricaded by the police, who have barred entry of even the two-wheelers.
Ram Naresh Chaurasia, who runs Shree Ram Bhojanalaya at the Naya Ghat, said that everything was “normal” until Sunday. “Things are still in place, but there is an uneasy calm. There is some amount of panic owing to the precautionary orders, imposition of Section 144 and also due to the heavy police deployment in every nook and corner of the town,” he said.
He further said that even though there is no order or advisory regarding keeping the shops open or shut, the shopkeepers are choosing to wrap up by 6.30 pm latest.
“There is deafening silence on the streets after sunset and people are not even playing Bhajans due to the reasons best known to them. My business, these days, is totally dependent on the labourers who have been asked to clean the Ghat and prepare it for the Deepotsav. Otherwise, regular pilgrims are hesitant in stopping at random places for anything, be it food or buying prasaad,” said Chaurasi (53), who is a resident of Ayodhya and has been running his eatery since past 35 years.
Devi Prasad, 47, a private boatman at the Ram Ki Paidi (Saryu river bank) said that his business has been hit by the restrictions, as all the 56 private boats operating here have been asked to stop their service until further orders.
“The government is taking away our ‘rozi-roti’ (livelihood) by not allowing us to ply the pilgrim boats. We do not know when the government will ask us to resume the service and we do not have any other substitute to earn money and feed our children. We, the boatmen of Ayodhya, have not earned even a single rupee since yesterday and within a day or two, we will run out of our savings. The government should compensate us and make arrangements for our employment when they are taking taxes from us,” said Prasad.
He adds, “There has been no decrease in the pilgrims’ influx to the temple town. Even the pilgrims are getting upset because the boat services are shut.”
Satyendra Jha, who collects donation at the Kartashala—where stones for the proposed Ram temple are being carved—says that he is hopeful of getting the [Supreme Court’s] order in favour of the Ram temple. He added that increasing number of people are requesting to be included in Karseva [volunteering] from people across the globe.
“The organisation [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] has been getting more and more requests from the people who want to serve and help build the proposed temple and so far, over 65% of the stonework for the temple has been completed,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, main Muslim petitioner in the case, Iqbaal Ansari, told NewsClick, “There is some amount of fear among the Ayodhya residents. What had happened in 1992 [in the aftermath of Babri mosque demolition] should not be repeated, as both the communities were hurt because of it. Everyone knows that those who were responsible for the violence were actually outsiders. The Hindu-Muslim integrity in Ayodhya is very much intact and it will always remain the same no matter what the decision is.”
O P Singh, director general, Uttar Pradesh Police, along with the chief secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari, visited the town and took stock of the preparations being done for the annual Deepotsav—an annual festive event started by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath two years ago.
Tiwari, while interacting with the reporters, said that the state government will not leave any stone unturned to maintain the law and order situation in the town. He did not answer more questions regarding the security arrangements, but went on to say that the state government will make another world record by lighting 4 lakh lamps on the Deepotsav.