Ayodhya keeps calm on Babri's anniversary; strict security measures in place

(TOP): the 27th anniversary of the Babri Masjid Friday's demolition remained a discrete matter with Hindu and Muslim religious leaders who belittled the occasion amid strict security measures, less than a month after the Supreme Court verdict in the case of land disputes.

In the early hours of the day, life continued normally in different parts of the city, with schoolchildren and morning walkers who took to the streets and businesses that opened at the usual time.

While the right-wing Hindu organizations in the past 'celebrated' the day when a mafia demolished the mosque at the disputed site in 1992, this year the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) decided not to observe 'Shaurya Diwas'.

Muslims offer 'Namaaz' prayers at Terhi Bazaar Masjid, near Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya on Friday. (PTI photo)

The temple's chief priest, Raju Das, told PTI that the day should now be marked as friendship day.

The temple witnesses a regular flow of devotees. It is a normal day for us and the city. We are observing this day as 'sauhaard diwas' (friendship day). At night, ground lamps will be lit in Hanumangarhi, he said.

The (AIMPLB) has said that while the anniversary of the demolition of the historic mosque by a mafia was a day of mourning for Muslims, it was individual if they wanted to observe the yaum-e-gham or the day of sorrow.

At the Jama Masjid Malik Shah here, children were seen reading the Quran under the guidance of Haji Ismail Ansari, even as a poster with a picture of Babri Masjid hung on a wall.

Mohammed Shahzad Raeen, a poultry merchant, said there was no problem among the Hindu and Muslim residents of Ayodhya who have been living peacefully for generations.

Around 150 Muslims attended Friday prayers at the Terhi bazaar mosque near the Ramjanmabhoomi police station in the afternoon.

In the speech before the prayers, Maulana Shafique Alam said: December 6 is a day of mourning for us.

He welcomed the decision of the Muslim Personal Law Board of all India to file a petition for review against the Supreme Court verdict of November 9.

The Maulana asked people to demand their rights and remember 'Khuda' (God).

The Terhi Bazaar mosque is almost 200 years old, said Shafique Alam, adding that between 40 and 50 Muslim families lived nearby.

People of different age groups showed up at the mosque to offer prayers amid strict security measures.

At an elementary school in the Ranopalli area, classes were held on a regular basis.

In total there are 74 students in the school. Yesterday, 52 students had appeared. Today, around 30 are present, said Lal Bahadur Yadav, teacher.

When asked if the drop in attendance was due to the anniversary of the demolition of Babri, he said: Possibly yes, since anxiety is present in some parents on December 6.

In the Rikabganj area, devotional songs were heard in various temples that were visited by devotees as usual.

Milk stores, restaurants and other businesses in the city were operational.

It's a normal day for us, said Brajesh Kumar, a 60-year-old resident. Police personnel monitored the activities to avoid any public order situation.

The security arrangements in the city are similar to that put in place ahead of the Supreme Court's November 9 verdict in the Ramjanmabhoomi- Babri Masjid land dispute case, a senior police officer said.

The official said religious organizations had assured the administration that the anniversary would be a discrete matter.

The security plan for December 6 will be a continuation of the plan we had devised for November 9, said the Additional General Director of Police (Law and Order) PV Ramasastry.

District magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha and senior police superintendent Ashish Tiwari toured several parts of the city.

Anuj Kumar Jha said: All parties that had organized programs on the occasion felt the importance of sending a message of friendship. Most of them canceled their programs.

He said adequate security personnel were deployed after intelligence entries that some people could violate Section 144 of the CrPC by maintaining a congregation.

Adequate monitoring and verification is being carried out. So far, no unfortunate incident has been reported, Jha said, adding that there were no restrictions for devotees visiting the city's temples.

The SSP Ashish Tiwari said: We have been touring the entire city. The deployment has been carried out in such a way that the security apparatus is robust without any problem for the common man. The force is already embarking on foot and drones are being used to keep an eye on several developments.

Appropriate security personnel were deployed to ensure peaceful prayers on Fridays.

Ayodhya Ashish Tiwari's SSP said the entire district had been divided into four zones, 10 sectors and 14 subsectors from a security perspective.

Up to 78 sandbag positions have been established with armed police there. Barriers have been established to control traffic. Up to 269 police pickets have been established in sensitive areas, Tiwari said.

The SSP said that 305 'troublemakers' had been identified and actions were being initiated against them.

In addition to this, nine rapid response teams have been deployed.

To combat any emergency situation, five arrest groups were formed in addition to 10 temporary prisons, he said, adding that anti-sabotage teams were checking hotels, dharamshalas and other public places.