Other States

No ripples in Ayodhya on Babri anniversary

People go about their daily routine near Hanumangarhi in Ayodhya on Sunday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt  

Four armed policemen stand guard outside a modest structure just outside the security ring of the disputed structure, where once stood the Babri Masjid.

A frail, elderly man, dressed in white kurta pyjamas, puts on a black fur cap and sits upright on the bed. He usually wears a hearing aid before speaking but today does not do so. “When will their nautanki (gimmicks) end?” he asks, attacking RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for his comments that a Ram mandir would be constructed during his lifetime.

When December 6 approaches, Hashim Ansari is perhaps the most sought after man in Ayodhya. At 94, the oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid case he has lived long enough to see the issue boil into a political mammoth.

Each year on December 6, the fateful day in 1992 when the 400-year-old mosque was razed by Hindutva foot soldiers, Mr. Ansari is hounded with questions, in particular, ‘will the Babri Masjid issue be resolved during his lifetime?’ The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ But he goes on attack Mr. Bhagwat. “Go ahead, make the temple. Who is stopping you? Who is Bhagwat? So many like him came and went but all they are interested in are gimmicks,” Mr. Ansari said, expressing anguish over the politicisation of the Ram Mandir. “For political power, they have locked up Lord Ram in jail. For how long will they play politics over Ram?” he asked.

However, all the political rhetoric around the Ram Mandir and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s renewed aggressiveness does not seem to have any resonance among residents. The Babri demolition completed 23 years on Sunday and as customary, the State bulked up security forces in the district.

VHP event a low-key one

The VHP celebrated the day as “Shourya Diwas” and convened a ‘Hindu swabhiman sammelan’ at Karsevakpuram, close to the workshop where stone carvings for the grand temple are kept. Those present recounted the legacy of Ashok Singhal, the senior VHP patriarch who died recently. But no prominent face featured in the gathering, a low-key affair.

Those mourning the demolition, noted the day as a ‘Black Day.’ ‘Yaume Gam’ or ‘Day of Sorrow’ was observed at an event at the residence of Haji Mahboob, a prominent Babri Masjid movement leader. In Lucknow, Left parties took out a protest march.

Life in the sleepy temple town on the banks of the Saryu, however, went on as usual. In fact, in the narrow lanes of the town, locals rarely discuss the Mandir unless provoked. The youth talk of jobs and education, while traders rue the stagnation imposed over their town by the endless controversy.

Tight security

At the disputed site, security is tightened and at least 25 intelligence officers, with walkie-talkies in their hand, hover around the 63 acres of barricaded land. Around 7,000 pilgrims visited the makeshift Ram Mandir there on the day.

“There is little reaction to the VHP’s call,” said a senior local intelligence officer. “We are spending Rs. 80 lakh every month on security. People want an end to this.”

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 8:03:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/no-ripples-in-ayodhya-on-babri-anniversary/article7955296.ece

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