In the early hours of the day, life went on as normal in different parts of the city with school children and morning walkers taking to the streets and shops and businesses opening at their usual time.
The 27th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition on Friday remained a low-key affair with both Hindu and Muslim religious leaders downplaying the occasion amid tight security measures, less than a month after the Supreme Court’s verdict in the land dispute case. In the early hours of the day, life went on as normal in different parts of the city with schoolchildren and morning walkers taking to streets and businesses opening at their usual time. While right-wing Hindu organisations in the past ‘celebrated’ the day when a mob had pulled down the mosque on the disputed site in 1992, this year the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has decided against observing ‘Shaurya Diwas’.
Senior priest of Hanumangarhi temple Raju Das told PTI that the day should now be marked as the ‘day of amity’. “The temple is witnessing a regular flow of devotees. It is a normal day for us and the city. We are observing this day as ‘sauhaard diwas’ (day of amity). In the evening, earthen lamps will be lit in Hanumangarhi,” he said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has said that while the anniversary of the historic mosque’s demolition by a mob was a day of mourning for Muslims, it was “up to individuals” if they wanted to observe the ‘yaum-e-gham’ or the ‘day of sorrow’.
At the Jama Masjid Malik Shah here, children were seen reading the Quran under the guidance of Haji Ismail Ansari, even as a poster with a picture of Babri Masjid hung on a wall. Mohammed Shahzad Raeen, a poultry dealer, said there was no problem among Hindu and Muslim residents of Ayodhya who have been peacefully living for generations. Around 150 Muslims attended Friday prayers at the Terhi Bazaar mosque in the vicinity of the Ramjanmabhoomi police station in the afternoon. In the speech before the prayers, Maulana Shafique Alam said, “December 6 is a day of mourning for us.”
He welcomed the decision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to go for a review petition against the Supreme Court’s November 9 verdict. The Maulana asked the people to demand their rights and remember ‘Khuda’ (God). The Terhi Bazaar mosque is almost 200-year-old, Shafique Alam said, adding that 40-50 Muslim families lived in its vicinity. People from different age groups turned up at the mosque to offer prayers amidst tight security. At a primary school in Ranopalli area, classes were held in a regular manner. “In all there are 74 students in the school. Yesterday, 52 students had turned up. Today, around 30 are present,” Lal Bahadur Yadav, a teacher, said.
When asked if the dip in attendance was due to the anniversary of the Babri demolition, he said, “Possibly yes, as anxiety is present in some parents over December 6.” In the Rikabganj area, devotional songs were playing at various temples that were visited by devotees as usual. Milk shops, eateries and other businesses in the city were operational. “It is a normal day for us,” said 60-year-old Brajesh Kumar, a resident. Police personnel kept an eye on activities to prevent any law and order situation. The security arrangements in the city are similar to that put in place ahead of the Supreme Court’s November 9 verdict in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, a senior police officer said.
The officer said that religious organisations had assured the administration that the anniversary would be a low-key affair. “The security plan for December 6 will be a continuation of the plan we had devised for November 9,” Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) PV Ramasastry said. District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha and Senior Superintendent of Police Ashish Tiwari toured various parts of the city. Anuj Kumar Jha said, “All parties who had organised programmes on the occasion felt the importance of sending a message of amity. Most of them cancelled their programmes.”
He said adequate security personnel were deployed following intelligence inputs that some people might violate Section 144 of the CrPC by holding a congregation. “Proper monitoring and checking is being done. So far, there is no report of any untoward incident,” Jha said, adding that there was no restriction on devotees visiting temples in the city. SSP Ashish Tiwari said, “We have been touring the entire city. Deployment has been done in such a manner that the security apparatus is robust without any problem to the common man. The force is already undertaking foot march and drones are being used to keep an eye on various developments.”
He adequate security personnel were deployed to ensure peaceful Friday prayers. Ayodhya SSP Ashish Tiwari said the entire district had been divided into four zones, 10 sectors and 14 sub-sectors from a security perspective. “As many as 78 sand bag posts have been established with armed policemen posted there. Barriers have been put in place to control traffic. As many as 269 police pickets have been set up in sensitive areas,” Tiwari said.
The SSP said that 305 ‘troublemakers’ had been identified and action was being initiated against them. Apart from this, nine quick response teams have been deployed. “To combat any emergency situation, five arresting parties have been formed in addition to 10 temporary jails,” he said, adding that anti-sabotage teams were checking hotels, dharamshalas and other public places.