The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya valour in Ahmedabad

Ayodhya, Dec. 5: On the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition’s 10th anniversary, Ayodhya’s rabble-rousing mahants have done the unthinkable. They have ditched Ram and gone to Gujarat.

This is the first time since the demolition that they have done so. The anniversary, however, will be celebrated as Shaurya Divas (Valour Day) at Ahmedabad’s Akshardham temple.

But what about Ayodhya' “All our top leaders are in Gujarat. So we will hold a symbolic ceremony in Ayodhya to mark the anniversary,” said Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas chairman Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, who was scheduled to visit Gujarat but was advised against travelling by doctors.

With the top guns away in Gujarat, a low-key Hindu Dharma Raksha Sammelan in Ayodhya will mark the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Valour Day, observed here on each anniversary. VHP general-secretary Giriraj Kishore will address the meet.

The change in plans could not have made Ayodhya and Faizabad residents happier. The VHP’s recent exhibition at Karsevakpuram on the Godhra carnage had turned them off. Godhara ka Sach has now been dismantled.

“We are glad to miss them,” said R.C. Tripathi, former principal of Ayodhya’s post-graduate college. A kar sevak till 10 years ago, Tripathi is now disllusioned with the VHP. “The VHP is interested in political power alone, not Ram,” he said.

Paramhans and his VHP associates are fast becoming objects of hate for the residents of the twin towns, which till not long ago epitomised the synthesis of Hindu and Muslim ethos. “It is outside invaders, supported by a handful of local mahants, that cause trouble,” said Rahmat Ali, owner of a small shop selling vermilion, Hindu idols, sandal paste and rudraksha necklaces.

“We we are fed up with them,” he said. Ali’s shop is a stone’s throw from the spot where the Babri Masjid once stood.

Jo hona tha ho gaya. Ab baat badhane se kya' (What had to happen has happened. Why keep the controversy alive)'” asked Ali. A practising Muslim, he shuns firebrand leaders of his community who talk of rebuilding the mosque.

Guddu Gupta, owner of a similar shop nearby and Ali’s family friend, is equally weary of the religious hawks. “Let it be a mosque or a temple. The question is it must be settled fast,” he said.

Counting their losses and gains for the 10 years after the demolition, the twin-town residents feel cheated. “It was a quiet town where a constant flow of pilgrims gave jobs to thousands. After the masjid demolition, trade has shrunk to half of what it was,” said priest Radhey Shankar Pandey.

All they want now is peace, economic stability and development. They are fed up with the frequent invasions by the Hindutva stormtroopers and the policemen on their trail. “The temple town has become a terrorist town,” said Katra resident Abdul Rehman. “Now that it’s on the hit-list of Pakistan-sponsored outfits, there are bound to be more policemen.”

Day-to-day problems are what bothers the residents the most. “There are localities where taps go dry for months and electricity is available for just a few hours. Neither the Hindu nor the Muslim hardliners have cared about us,” said Faizabad lawyer Deep Chand.

The local administration may not be expecting any trouble tomorrow, but it has left nothing to chance. Early today, a slew of police jeeps and trucks took out a march on Ayodhya streets. Four additional companies of the Rapid Action Force too have been pressed into service in the Red Zone — the point from where the periphery of the acquired land begins.

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