The Muslim community in Ayodhya, the temple town in eastern Uttar Pradesh where the Vishva Hindu Parishad is holding a Dharma Sabha to push for the construction of a Ram temple, is feeling apprehensive about their security.
While some locals said they feared for their security and have sent their women and children to relatives outside the town, some prayed for peace.
Thousands of people have started gathering in the town ahead of the Vishva Hindu Parishad event. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray has also arrived here Saturday for a separate programme.
Some members of the community have said they felt insecure as they remembered the attacks on Muslims in 1992 after the demolition of Babri Masjid.
Mohammad Shahid, a local, said Muslims still remember 1990 and 1992 and they fear a repetition. Some families have sent their women and children to relatives outside Ayodhya, he said.
Another resident Mohammad Salim said it was like any other day in Ayodhya. He, however, prayed for peace and blame politics of religion for the problem. Mohammad Waseem also said that there was no fear but accepted that the situation was sensitive.
Iqbal Ansari, the Muslim litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, said people should understand the problems of town’s residents. Muslims want peace, he said.
“If anyone has any issue on the matter of temple-mosque, he/she should go to Delhi and Lucknow to express their views,” Ansari who succeeded his father late Hashim Ansari as the main litigant in the case told PTI.
“They can gherao the (Uttar Pradesh) Vidhan Sabha or Parliament if they want but leave the people of Ayodhya in peace,” added Ansari as he cast aspersions on the intentions of those encouraging people to gather at the temple town and “posing problems” for the locals.
On the fears among some that history might be repeated in Ayodhya with such a large congregation of ‘Ram Bhakts’, Ansari said the situation this time was different from 1992 as all the eyes were on the events taking place here.
“The media, especially the electronic media, is telecasting everything before the country and the government is also maintaining a tight vigil,” he said.
Mohammad Umar, a plaintiff in the Ayodhya case, said, “Ayodhya is our birthplace, we have been here from many generations, but we still remember how the VHP and Shiv Sena activists attacked Muslims after the demolition of the mosque on December 6.”
Another plaintiff, Haji Mahboob, had said, “It is a fact that the Muslim population here is in a grip of fear over a possible attack by activists. They are feeling quite insecure.”
‘No need to fear, elaborate security arrangements in place’
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya tried to allay the fears saying the government has made elaborate security arrangements.
“No one needs to fear (anything) as there is peace in Uttar Pradesh. The government has made elaborate security arrangements to ensure that no untoward incident takes place,” he told PTI.
On the eve of the VHP’s Dharam Sabha, the temple town was virtually turned into a fortress will multiple layers of security and deployment of drones.
A UP Police spokesperson said one additional DGP, one deputy inspector general (DIG), three senior superintendents of police (SSPs), 10 additional SPs, 21 deputy SPs, 160 inspectors, 700 constables, 42 companies of PAC, five companies of RAF, ATS commandos and drones were deployed here.
Faizabad range DIG Onkar Singh assured that nobody needs to fear for safety. The administration has made proper security arrangement for the event, Singh said.
The Dharam Sabha is being touted as one of the largest congregations of Lord Ram devotees after December 6, 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, but some Muslim leaders view it as a move to polarise the voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Ayodhya Municipal Corporation Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay said there was not fear or apprehension among the Muslims.
“Some vested interests, who seeing that all their plans may fail to reap political dividends, have started spreading rumours,” he said.
Upadhyay said the environment in Ayodhya was peaceful and harmonious and the people were going about their daily routine.
“Dharam Sabha and Dhara Sansad had been held here earlier as well. There are a handful of self-proclaimed leaders, who were trying to take this as an opportunity to realise their political interests but, their plans did not materialise,” he said.
Elaborating on the security arrangements, Upadhyay said adequate arrangements were made by the police and district administration.
“As many as 13 parking slots were provided for the event. Shiv Sena leaders took part in aarti and met seers in the temple town. No permission was given to them by the government to hold a rally,” the Ayodhya mayor said.
Ansari also lauded the Uttar Pradesh government for the security arrangements.
“The Yogi Adityanath government has done what is required with tight security arrangements in place in Ayodhya,” Ansari said.
“We are satisfied with the steps taken by the government… The Yogi government is on the right track,” he added.
The co-convenor (organisation) of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, which is the affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), dismissed the reports of fear among the Muslims as false.
“A large number of Muslims have pledged to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya. As many as 500 programmes will be held across the country from November 20 to December 2 to spread this message,” the co-convenor Moraridas said.
He said a campaign had also been started that “we (Muslims) are not minorities, we are the ‘maalik’ of Hindustan”.
Moraridas stressed on the importance of Ayodhya, saying. “If there cannot be a second Vatican City, a second Golden Temple, and if there cannot be a second Mecca and Medina, then there cannot be a second Ram Janmabhoomi.”