Ayodhya turns fortress ahead of VHP, Shiv Sena events as Hindu groups warn of '1992 repeat'; Section 144 imposed
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday will reach Ayodhya, where his party has already jumped into the fray to whip up passions on the Ram temple.
Ayodhya, a quaint city not more than 140 kilometres from Lucknow, resembled a fortress on Saturday as lakhs of right-wing workers descended on the temple town amid chants of "mandir vahi banaenge, mandir jaldi bananenge."
As Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is set to arrive in the city, where his party has already jumped into the fray to whip up passions on the Ram temple, over 30,000 Shiv Sainiks congregated into the city. That apart, right-wing organistaion Vishwa Hindu Parishad is also in the midst of preparing for a mega rally, Dharma Sabha, which it claims would be "the last before the war bugle is sounded".
Government sources said local intelligence units have been "alerted" and extra security deployment has been made ahead of the Shiv Sena chief's visit and VHP's massive rally. The local administration has imposed restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC at the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Majid disputed site, amid reports that the minority community has started leaving the city fearing violence, News18 reported.
Approximately 160 inspectors, 700 constables, 42 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), five companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF), Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) commandos and drone cameras have been deployed in Ayodhya, reported NDTV.
Thackeray, who will arrive in the city late afternoon, will attend several events in the temple town over the weekend, and is likely to put pressure on the BJP-led government for early construction of the grand Ram temple.
"Uddhav will perform aarti at 5.15 pm on the banks of the Saryu river in Ayodhya on 24 November. All Sena shakhas across Maharashtra and party units across the country have been asked to perform aarti at the same time," a Sena leader told The Indian Express. A report from CNN News18 added that a thousand diyas or earthen lamps will illuminate the banks of the Sarayu river in Ayodhya to mark Thackeray's arrival.
Thousands of Shiv Sainiks across Maharashtra will simultaneously hold poojas to accompany the party chief. Thackeray was accompanied by his wife Rashmi and son Aaditya, IANS reported.
Uddhav is also expected to pray at the famous Ram Lala shrine, currently nestled closed to the disputed site. He will later meet the saints and seers and seek their blessings. There was no clarity on whether or not the Sena chief will hold deliberations with Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, as the seer had reportedly expressed some reservations in meeting the head of a political outfit.
Subsequently, on what is now being called the "Super Sunday", Thackeray and VHP will hold separate events in the city. Police sources said that there would be over two lakh people converging in Ayodhya. Several trains, buses, tractor trolleys, taxis have been booked by the organisers to ferry people from across the state to be part of the congregation, which the VHP has announced
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), will hold a Dharma Sabha on Sunday to press for early construction of the Ram Temple, even as the title dispute lay sub judice in the apex court.
The Sena, meanwhile, has coined a new slogan inspired from what the BJP popularised in the 1990's: It has turned around the mandir vahi banaenge slogan to pehle mandir fir sarkar, in a comeback at its ally.
Political Reactions: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut causes stir, Akhilesh Yadav says army should be deployed
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was in the town twice in the past fortnight and had discussions with local seers. Raut on Friday created a flutter in Ayodhya by saying when Babri Masjid could be demolished in 17 minutes, why it was taking so long for a law to build a temple there.
"We demolished the Babri Masjid in 17 minutes but for paperwork why it is taking so much time...for drafting a law or ordinance," he told reporters in comments seen as provoking the BJP. Over the last few months, relations between the two allies have soured.
The Shiv Sena leader, camping in the temple town for the last couple of days along with other party leaders and hundreds of Sena supporters who arrived here in two special trains, said: "From Rashtrapati Bhavan to Uttar Pradesh, there is BJP government. In Rajya Sabha, there are a lot of members who support Ram temple."
Raut also demanded that the government enact a law for "quick construction of a grand Ram temple" in Ayodhya.
His comments met with a stiff comeback from BJP leader Vinaya Katiyar said that Raut was not even present in the state at the time of Babari Masjid demolition. He announced the Bajrang Dal cadre too will be arriving in the city on 25 November.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav even urged the Supreme Court to send the army, if necessary, to keep the situation under control.
"The BJP doesn't believe in either the Supreme Court or the constitution. The party can go to any extent. The kind of environment there is in UP, especially in Ayodhya, the Supreme Court should take notice of it and send the Army if necessary," Yadav was quoted as saying by Times Now.
BJP parliamentarian Sakshi Maharaj also raised tensions on Friday when he urged for a Babari-like demolition of Delhi's Jama Masjid, "because it has been constructed on the remains of a Hindu temple."
"The first the first statement I made after entering politics, and I stand by it even today. If you don't find Hindu idols beneath Jama Masjid's staircase, you are welcome to hang me," NDTV quoted him as saying at a public rally in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao.
The BJP leader also claimed that the Mughals had demolished temples across India, and constructed over 3,000 mosques in their place. "They did this to crush the spirit of Hindus," he said
There is growing anxiety among locals on what this maiden visit to the Maratha satrap would mean for the Ram temple. Local traders have already threatened to down shutters on Sunday and show black flags to Thackeray to protest attacks on North Indians in Mumbai, fomented by his party.
What is worrying the security agencies, insiders say, is the fact that many VHP and even the ruling BJP lawmakers have openly threatened a "repeat of 1992" on Sunday. Beria (Barabanki district) legislator Surendra Singh has publicly said that if things do not move fast towards an early announcement of the Ram temple, "they will not hesitate in taking law in their hands".
Sources said that the state BJP government is working the wires with the Shiv Sena top brass to ensure that there is no untoward incident in and around the disputed site.
The Yogi Adityanath government is treading with caution. On the one hand, the government has said that "Ram bhakts" can gather in Ayodhya and perform rituals, on the other, it has asked the police and the district administration to be extra vigilant.
On Friday the temple town turned into a fortress with the police dividing Ayodhya into eight zones and 16 sectors. State chief secretary Pradesh Anoop Chandra Pandey, principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar and Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh reviewed the town's security through video-conferencing.
The state government has also increased the number of provincial armed constabulary (PAC) from 20 to 48. "There is nothing to fear. We are vigilant and the law and order will be maintained," said the DGP on Friday.
Iqbal Ansari, the lone Muslim litigant in the decades-old title suit of the Babri mosque-Ram Janmabhoomi case had recently said they were feeling insecure as the "atmosphere in Ayodhya was akin to 1992".
RSS's Bhaiyyaji Joshi had recently visited Ayodhya and expressed the hope that "his next visit to the temple town would be when the Ram deity sits under a grand temple".
RSS has pumped in its might to make the Sunday event a success and has divided the 200-kilometre area around Ayodhya into 1,000 sections wherein processions, door-to-door campaigns, bike rallies and processions are being held to mobilise the Hindus.
The Ayodhya case is before the Supreme Court and is scheduled for hearing in January next year.
With inputs from IANS
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