Ayodhya protests: Dharma Sabha, Shiv Sena posters splashed across temple town; religious akharas turn debating venues
The congregation on Sunday in Ayodhya is being held less than two weeks before the 26th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque.
Ayodhya: Posters of VHP's 'Dharma Sabha' and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's programme in Ayodhya are splashed across the streets of the temple town, and many religious 'akharas' have turned into debating venues to discuss the issue of Ram temple.
The 'Dharma Sabha' is being touted as the largest congregation of 'Ram bhakts' in Ayodhya since the 1992 'kar seva'.
The congregation on Sunday is being held less than two weeks before the 26th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque, that had triggered unrest in this town and riots in other parts of India.
Hordes of activists of both the VHP and the Shiv Sena, who have gathered in Ayodhya from various parts of the country, bear saffron flags and chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. In the background posters with images of Lord Ram and the slogan 'Chalo Ayodhya' dot the roads.
At many places, passers-by can see small trucks carrying projectors and a screen to showcase 'Ramayana', a famous 1986 TV series.
The VHP has claimed that three lakh people, including seers, will attend its 'Dharma Sabha' to be held at Bade Bhakt Mal Ki Baghia, not far from the controversial Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas-run workshop, where work for building a temple has been underway since 1990.
Posters of the VHP mega event and Sena proclaiming 'Chalo Ayodhya' compete with each other to grab eyeballs of residents, even as rhetoric takes centre stage in the pilgrim town. From Ram ki Paidi to main market areas, huge hoardings have been put up, some in front of parks, bus stands and other public places.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who arrived in Ayodhya ahead of Sunday's VHP rally for a Ram temple, Saturday asked the Narendra Modi government to wake up from a "Kumbhakarna-like slumber" and declare the date for its construction.
Amid a growing chorus for construction of a Ram Temple, the Sena leader has also urged the government to bring legislation, or an ordinance, for building the temple on the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, but he has not linked his own two-day visit to the VHP event.
'There is no political motive behind my visit to Ayodhya," claimed the Sena chief, who was greeted with slogans of "Jai Shri Ram" when he arrived in Ayodhya with his wife Rashmi and son Aditya.
Mahant Nrityagopal Das, the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, was among those who welcomed Thackeray at Lakshman Qila, where the Sena leader made the remarks. A drone monitored the event.
The Sena claimed to have brought several thousand supporters to Ayodhya for Thackeray's events.
Many religious 'akharas' have turned into debating venues to discuss the issue of Ram Temple. Electronic media houses have organised debates at various venues, including the 'akharas' attended by large crowds.
Mahant Dharamdas, a prominent seer in Ayodhya, at a debate held at Digamber Akahara said, "The Supreme Court should heed to the sentiments of these people who have arrived in Ayodhaya today, with a pious belief that a Ram temple will be built soon."
At the Bade Bhakt Mal Ki Baghia, near the Karsewakpuram workshop, people have flocked from near and far to attend the event.
"I have come to Ayodhya with just one hope, the temple should be built. And, I am sure it will be built," said an 80-year-old woman from Jaunpur.
Many were seen dressed in saffron robes, some even wearing jazzy accessories, taking selfies, while others danced and sang.
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