Ayodhya: As the long-drawn court hearings on the Temple-Mosque land dispute ended on Wednesday, an uneasy calm prevailed in the temple town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The local administration, however, termed the situation as ‘peaceful’.
Ayodhya, a small town in Northern India, has given the nation its biggest legal battle, fodder for politics, a pogrom of over 1,000 people spurred by religious hatred, along with heart-warming stories of communal harmony.
Situated about 700 kilometers away from the national capital of New Delhi, Ayodhya, the disputed temple town, has been an epicentre of Right-wing politics that helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) make inroads into national politics and catapulted it to power in 2014, riding on the election promise of building a Ram Temple here after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by thousands of Sangh Parivar kar sevaks.
As the country awaits a court verdict on the disputed land, Ayodhya has turned into a virtual fortress, with more and more security forces pumped into services.
On the face of it, it is business as usual. Pilgrims can be seen walking down the road to Hanuman Garhi temple and then to the makeshift Ram Temple after bathing in the holy river, Saryu. Almost all shops are open with their owners and workers trying to lure customers. But anxiety about the impact of the court verdict next month on daily life is palpable.
Miya Azim, 58, a resident of Katra locality, a stone’s throw from the disputed site, says he is desperately waiting for the decision in the matter.
“Let the decision come in favour of Ram Temple. I am not against my faith and I am a practicing Musalmaan, but I want this decision to be in favour of the temple only for peace in Ayodhya, which has been snatched away owing to the Mandir-Masjid politics being played out since 1992,” says Azim, who is a cloth merchant in Ayodhya city.
The Muslim resident, who was witness to the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 says: “Ok, I agree with the facts being presented by my Hindu brothers that the mosque was a symbol of slavery, it was built by a Mughal invader by demolishing a temple, but people were praying under that structure. We know the Supreme Court will give us some land for offering prayers to Allah. We have full faith in Indian law,” he added.
Apprehending a violent situation in the backdrop of the court’s verdict, Azim demanded that the administration should ensure the safety of people in Ayodhya so that nothing like the 1992 riots happen.
“I am a witness to several deaths post-demolition (of Bari Masjid) and I have seen how my neighbor, whom I called uncle, was charred to death and his family was humiliated by the same mob who brought down our holy place. I would not be able to witness another such situation,” he added
Mohammad Bilal, 72, another resident of Ayodhya, whose brother was killed in the 1992 riots, says he wants to see a mosque standing at the same place where Babri Masjid stood.
“We did not see any temple and all I know is that we saw Babri and we prayed there. That was our place and it was taken from us forcefully by the Hindu hardliners. My family, my elders have paid the cost of being Muslim, but I tell you that if the decision comes against our faith, then I do not know what I will do, but I will sacrifice the rest of my life for Allah,” he said.
Bilal, a tailor by profession, wants the dispute to an end as they (the Muslim community) had suffered a lot due to this issue.
“Every day, a political leader or a bigot comes here, makes hate speeches and abuses Muslims. Religious abuses are hurled on us, filthy slogans are coined for our religion. How right it is? Have we not sacrificed our lives for this land? Why do we need to prove our loyalty every day?” he added.
Ashiq Ahmad, a graduate student, who is preparing for the civil services and is a resident of Ayodhya, said this was the right time to end the decades-long battle that has left the society divided on religious lines.
“We, the millennials, have no interest in engaging ourselves in the religious debates. We have grown up watching a curfew-like situation every second month. Imagine the mental trauma that a kid goes through watching men with guns around. This should have been declared a conflict zone long ago and people should have been provided special facilities to keep their mental fitness right, but nothing has been done other than dragging this issue for decades,” he said, adding that the case should have been solved years ago but vested political interest kept the issue alive. He also blamed TV news channels for spreading hatred, appealing to them that “Live and let Ayodhya live.”
Unlike Wednesday, Karsewakpurm was abuzz on Thursday with the chants of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Ab Tareekh Batayenge, Mandir Hum Banayenge”. A large group of Ram believers, especially young boys, have landed up to see the proposed model of the temple
Karsewakpuram, the area situated a few meters away from the Karyashala, is an important place for members and leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma, in a brief interaction with the Newsclick, said, “Over 65% of the stone craving work for the temple has been completed and now we have a lot of forces who have expressed their will to volunteer for the temple,” he said.
Awaiting the verdict eagerly, the VHP leader said: “The court should not question the faith of Hindus” adding that he was optimistic for a verdict in their favour and of their associate group, Bajarang Dal and others, who have started preparing for carrying out a Shaurya Yatra when the verdict comes.
“I will ensure that law and order will be in place and we will celebrate and not cross the line. We will celebrate, as it will be the victory of faith and victory of crores of Hindus living across the world,” he added.