The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya at 10.30 am on Saturday. Security has been heightened across the country, especially in the national capital and Uttar Pradesh (UP), with Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealing for peace, stressing that the judgment would not be “a matter of victory or loss” for any community.
The local administration in UP has warned of severe punishment, including a jail term, for those posting social media posts and WhatsApp messages inciting communal hatred or violence. They will be booked under the state’s Gangster Act and also the National Security Act, police said.
All educational institutions in UP will remain closed from Saturday to Monday in view of the Ayodhya judgment. Also, while the Madhya Pradesh government has declared a holiday for all institutes on Saturday, the Delhi government advised all private schools to remain closed as a precautionary measure. Government schools in the capital will already be closed because it is the second Saturday of the month.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates have prepared a media onslaught for the day. On Friday, the RSS circulated the web address of an exhaustive website that it has put together on the issue, with its version of history and events relating to the dispute.
In an invite sent to youths among the Muslim community, it asked them to attend a talk by RSS Joint General Secretary Krishna Gopal at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in the national capital on Friday. One of those invited, who did not wish to be identified, told Business Standard the event organisers were looking for “educated youth” in the community to put forth the RSS point of view in TV debates and on social media on the verdict day.
BJP President Amit Shah is scheduled to be at a temple in Delhi around the time the court will deliver the verdict. Shah will address a conference of Sanskrit Bharti, an RSS affiliate. The SC listed the pronouncement of judgement by a Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on its official website late Friday evening. The other members of the Bench are Justice S A Bobde, Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer. The Bench on October 16 had reserved the judgment after a marathon hearing of 40 days.
Hours before the notice, the CJI held a meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and DGP Om Prakash Singh. The two apprised Gogoi of the security arrangements in the state. The meeting was held in the CJI's chamber, sources said. Multi-layered security arrangements have been put in place in Ayodhya, which has been turned into a fortress with the deployment of 60 companies (90-125 personnel each) of the Provincial Armed Constabulary and paramilitary forces. Drones and CCTV cameras were also being used to monitor the situation. In UP, clerics and priests have appealed to people to honour the Supreme Court's verdict. Sarvesh Shukla, a priest at Dakshinmukhi Hanuman Mandir in Lucknow’s Hazratganj, said: "My only appeal to the people is to honour and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case." "I am confident that the people of this country are quite mature, and they will accept the court’s judgment.”
“We should all respect the judgment. We should exercise restraint and not hurt the religious sentiment of any community," said the imam of the Lucknow Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali. In Meerut, Divisional Commissioner Anita Meshram, along with IG Alok Kumar, held a meeting with representatives of the Hindu and the Muslim communities. In Dhule district of Maharashtra, a 56-year-old man, identified as Sanjay Rameshwar Sharma, was arrested for writing an objectionable post on his Facebook wall.