Ayodhya I The waters of Saryu are placid but run deep. There is no tension in the air but the apprehension is palpable.
As the clock ticks away to the judgment day, the khaki presence in this holy town increases by the hour.
Policemen stand at every ten feet or so and though no restrictions on movement have been enforced as yet, the ‘military presence’ is unnerving.
“The presence of many ‘military men’ (read CRPF) makes us believe that trouble is on its way. The majority and the minority in the country have already decided to accept the verdict then why so much build-up?” asked Rohit Varma, a local student.
A number of weddings, both Hindu and Muslim, scheduled to be held before November 20 have been indefinitely postponed.
Ras Bihari, a local businessman is telephoning his relatives that his daughter’s wedding has been postponed and they should also cancel their travel plans to Ayodhya.
“It is better to be safe than sorry. We have decided to postpone my daughter’s wedding that was scheduled on November 16. I will be inserting an advertisement to this effect in the local newspaper and we are asking relatives and friends not to come during this period. As it is the guest houses I had booked for the wedding have already been taken over by the district administration,” he said.
People are already storing up food and other essential items.
Mohini Srivastava, a resident of Kasai Bara, says that the people of Ayodhya are now used to frequent shutdowns and curfews.
“Since 1992, we are kind of used to shutdowns. We are, therefore, taking all precautions. We are even storing up on necessary medicines because everyone stocks up on food and grocery but forgets medicines. Though everyone is mentally prepared for the verdict, there are always some trouble makers who had to the tension,” she explained.
Her husband, Rajesh Srivastava, works in a private company and he feels that the government should clamp down on debates in the electronic media.
Mohd Ahsan, who lives in Kajriyana, is a tailor and his father’s shop was burnt down in the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992.
“This time things have normalized and there is no frenzy though people are apprehensive. ‘Ab wo aag nahin hai’ (now there is no fire). However, there could be trouble due to some mischief makers,” he stated.
Ahsan said that it would be better if internet services are shut down on the verdict day so that canards are not spread.
“The Supreme Court said that there should be no debates on the Ayodhya issue but, every day, we see such debates where the participants almost come to blows. If this is stopped, the apprehensions will melt away,” he further said.
The district administration is fully prepared for the verdict on the dispute.
Schools, government as well as private, have been acquired to accommodate security forces. Hotels, lodges, guest houses have also been booked.
District Magistrate Anuj Jha has been in touch with Hindu and Muslim leaders, assuring them of their safety and security. Extra deployment of forces has been done in Muslim -dominated areas like Theri bazaar and Kajriyana.
“There is no need for anyone to panic because we have made fool proof arrangements in the whole of Ayodhya,” he said.
The tourist inflow in Ayodhya has dropped but people from adjoining districts are pouring in for the Kartik Purnima Mela which is scheduled to be held on November 12.
A senior district official, meanwhile, said, “We are praying fervently that the Supreme Court announces its verdict after November 14 because by then, the devotees who come for ‘Kartik Purnima’ will return and Ayodhya will be calmer,” he said.