Ayodhya, Dec. 6: For the first time in the last decade, Ayodhya has good news for the country on December 6 — no news.
Depleted by the exodus of rabble-rousers to election-bound Gujarat, less than 500 Ram bhakts went through the motions of a symbolic celebration in Karsevakpuram, a safe distance from the spot where they had demolished Babri Masjid 10 years ago.
“I knew that you’ll return disappointed,” Bimalendra Mohan Pratap Mishra, former prince of Ayodhya, told reporters. “But I am happy. At least, we have got a break from this annual torment.”
Unlike the fiery slogans of past years — “Mandir Yahin Banayenge (The temple will be built here)” — their bhajans today sounded almost innocuous. “Apne aradhya ka jaap karenge, apni raksha aap karenge (We’ll pray to our lord and defend ourselves),” they chanted.
“The front has shifted from Ayodhya to Gujarat,” Ram Chandra Paramhans, chairman of the VHP-sponsored temple trust, sounded apologetic.
Doctors had stopped him from going to Gujarat. “Yaheen par kuchh chhota-mota kar rahe hain, lekin dhyan to hum sabka Gujarat ki ranbhoomi par rahega. (We are doing something small here, but our thoughts are on the battlefield of Gujarat),” he said.
Scalded by the flames from Gujarat, the Babri Masjid Action Committee hawks, too, appeared to hold back. Black banners and flags fluttered atop a few mosques in Faizabad. But in Ayodhya, there were just Friday prayers.
“Forgetting December 6 will not be easy,” admitted Maulana Sajjad Ahmed Khan, imam of Sarai Wali Masjid. “But we can also not forget that Baba Ramchandra Das of Hanumangarhi and Amir Ali of Hasnu Katra were hung side by side at Kuber Tila by the British for leading the 1857 uprising,” he said.
Triyug Narain of Naya Ghat echoed him. “It may not be easy, but we can do it (make peace) if left to ourselves,” the owner of a stall of religious books said.
But the administration was wary, perhaps a little overcautious. No vehicle was allowed to approach any place of worship and public assembly was banned throughout the twin towns under a red alert.
A holiday appeared to have been imposed on an unwilling Ayodhya. Shops and eateries were open but, except for a clutch of reporters and security personnel, they had no customers.
Odd half-hearted attempts at mischief were nipped in the bud. A bunch of Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena activists burnt an effigy of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, the hero of the kar sevaks in 1992.
Another group tried to raise slogans near a Muslim locality. They were picked up before they could cause trouble.
A section of Muslims had decided to celebrate Id tomorrow, making the administration’s task lighter. While the Shias and the Sunnis of the Deobandi sect went through festivities today, the Barelvi sect is celebrating tomorrow.
Maulana Kutubdin Quadri of Tatshah mosque, who heads the Barelvi sect, announced that the Id namaz would be held tomorrow. “The moon was not seen last night but its sighting had been informed by telephone call. This serious matter could not be trusted to a telephone call only,”he added.
This spared the Muslims of Ayodhya, who belong to the Barelvi sect, the dilemma of celebrating their biggest festival on a day of mourning.
“We had decided that we will perform the Id namaz but not embrace each other as a symbolic expression of mourning, said Haji Mehboob Ahmed of Terhi Bazar right behind the disputed site. “But now that Id is tomorrow, there is no bar on embracing and no bar in feeling a little pleased that this day has passed off as it has.”