The Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case is due on Saturday, November 9. Ahead of the verdict several leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the people of the country and their party colleagues to maintain restraint, no matter what the verdict is.
Sources told PTI that Modi told his ministers to refrain from making unnecessary remarks on Ayodhya. PTI also reported that BJP and RSS both have asked its party workers to maintain peace.
These urgent messages come at a time when Ayodhya has been under tight security for over a month — with the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition approaching and in anticipation of the Supreme Court verdict.
The Times of India reported that 12,000 security personnel have been deployed in Ayodhya district, while 16,000 volunteers have been appointed by the UP police to apparently keep an eye on social media to ensure no “objectionable content” or rumours are spread.
The verdict is due anytime next week and if reports are to be believed, residents of the city — both Hindus and Muslims — are worried.
A resident of the Muslim-dominated Syedwada area told The Times of India on the condition of anonymity that he had heard locals saying that his locality would be targetted if the verdict was not in favour of the Ram Mandir this time and hence he planned to send his family away.
Even Hindus are making arrangements in anticipation of the verdict. Ghyansham Gupta told TOI, “We have made suitable arrangements and are stocking rice and lentils at home.”
Section 144 was imposed on Ayodhya on October 12 and will be in placed till December 10.
Authorities have announced a series of restrictions including “victory” or “mourning” marches, use of social media to insult other religions, possession of acid or chemical substances.
District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha, in an order issued on 2 November, said, “No attempt should be allowed to make any insulting remarks on great personalities, deities and gods on any social media platform such as Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. Besides, no installation of idols of any deity will take place without permission from the district administration.”
The order also said, “No individual will keep acid or any item that comprises potent explosive substance or chemical formula. Also, no one will carry stones, pebbles, broken glass pieces or even empty bottles,” stated the order.
According to it, there would also be a complete ban on any event, rally, street-corner meeting and cultural programme in the district during this period.
There is a ban on throwing any non-vegetarian leftovers at a public place. “Besides, no sale or consumption of meat, fish and eggs will take place on Kartik Purnima, Chaudahkosi and Panchkosi Parikrama Mela during this period,” the order stated.
Are “outsiders” the problem?
However, residents of Ayodhya say that while they have lived together for generations, the problem happens when outsiders are brought in by politcal parties. On 6 December, 1992 lakhs of karsevaks had descended upon the city. They demolished the mosque as several leaders like BJP’s LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani watched on.
Even last year when the Shiv Sena and VHP held rallies in the city, people were scared.
A pan seller, Dharmendra Kumar Sonkar, told The Indian Express, “The policemen don’t harass us. They are simply doing their job. Even in 1992, trouble started only when when karsevaks came from outside Ayodhya.”
In 1992, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, karsevaks attacked Muslims in the city. At least 2,000 people, according to official numbers, were killed in the aftermath of the demolition.
However, even the victims of the communal riots don’t have bad things to say about their neighbours.
NPR quoted Tayab-un-Nisa, a woman whose husband was killed in the riots, as saying not neighbours, only outsiders who were brought in by the politicians were to blame. She adds, “How else could I keep living here?”
Mumbai under tight security
The demolition resulted in the 1992 Mumbai riots, one of the largest that the country has ever seen. According to official numbers, 900 people died in these riots alone.
Ahead of the Ayodhya verdict, the financial capital in the BJP ruled Maharashtra is also under tight security.
PTI reported that the Mumbai Police have stepped up security, especially in sensitive areas, and are keeping a close watch on social media activities. The city is under similar restrictions like Ayodhya.
Prohibitory orders are already in place and no celebration or mourning with respect to the judgement will be allowed in the city, which witnessed communal riots after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, he said.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve on Monday held a meeting with some prominent members of the Muslim community, including journalists and spiritual leaders, and appealed to them to accept the apex court’s verdict.
“Elaborate security arrangements are being made with extra precautions in sensitive areas. As this will be the verdict of the apex court, every person should accept it as a citizen of the country and not as any community member,” the official said on Tuesday, according to PTI.
As part of the security measures, the police have imposed prohibitory orders from November 4 to 18, restricting any unlawful assembly of people, he said.
Citizens have been urged not to believe in rumours and alert the police if they come across any such kind of talks, he said.
“People should report any suspicious person or activity and help the police in keeping the city safe and peaceful,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)