The town that has been the centrepiece of the country’s politics for the past three decades was expectedly turned into a garrison on Saturday. Its residents stayed indoors for the better part of the day to catch the news of the Supreme Court (SC) verdict on television channels, but the markets started to come to life as the day progressed. People could be seen discussing the verdict and its ramifications while sipping tea or savouring paan (betel leaf) at the neighbourhood kiosks.
A cross-section of people blamed “outsiders” for vitiating the atmosphere in Ayodhya, which is now yearning to shed the scar of December 6, 1992, the day the mosque was razed, and move on for the sake of its future generations. People bemoaned how the town has seen little development in the past three decades, but hoped the construction of a “grand” temple would boost not only the economy, but there might also be funds for cleaning the Saryu river and construction of roads.
Samu Gupta, a local resident who runs a tea and general merchant shop near Nayaghat, welcomed the SC ruling, saying finally the matter had been resolved and there would now be lasting peace in Ayodhya. Onkar Nath Shastri, a 32-year-old priest at the local Tirumati temple dedicated to Lord Ram, hailed the judgment and said people were happy that now a grand temple would be built.
However, a section of the local Muslim community expressed disappointment at the court’s decision, saying the case, which pertained to the settlement of the title suit, did not serve justice to the Sunni Waqf Board, which was a party to the case.
“We are disappointed with the decision and feel that the Waqf Board should file a review petition in the SC. Nonetheless, the harmony and the social fabric between the Hindus and Muslims would remain as unblemished as ever in Ayodhya,” Mohd Shafiq, an elderly government teacher, said.
Mohd Gufran lamented that all the political parties had shunned the Muslims’ issues and were only working for the gratification of the majority community for vested interests.
The road leading to Nayaghat on the banks of the Saryu in Ayodhya — the ground zero of Hindutva politics — on Saturday witnessed more men in khaki manning makeshift check-posts than the regular swarm of devotees. The ghat also wore a deserted look with the usual hustle and bustle missing on the day, when the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court delivered its much-awaited verdict on the vexed title suit of the disputed land in Ayodhya.
Nearly 60 companies of police, PAC, and other paramilitary forces were deployed in Ayodhya, apart from the anti-terrorist squad and other specialised wings. Besides, two helicopters were kept on standby for any exigency.
Nonetheless, Ayodhya, about 140 km from Lucknow, breathed easy. Most shops in the main markets, including Sahabganj, Devkalli, Fatehganj and Subhashnagar, were open and serving the visitors.
Last night, the state government had declared a holiday across educational institutions in UP for three days starting Saturday as a precautionary measure.