Ayodhya, Nov. 25,2018: Ayodhya is on high alert with nearly 1,00,000 Ram Mandir supporters likely to congregate in the temple town to attend the Dharm Sansad organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
There is a fear of outbreak of communal violence in wake of multiple controversial statements and rumour with respect to three mosques; Babri Masjid (Ayodhya), Gyan Vapi Masjid (Varanasi) and Jama Masjid (New Delhi).
Tension has been ripe since earlier this week when the highly communally provocative trailer of a film about the Babri Masjid dispute by UP Shia Waqf Board Chief Syed Waseem Rizvi was released. Then on Friday, Sakshi Maharaj made controversial statements about demolishing the Jama Masjid. On Saturday, Varanasi woke up to rumours that even the Gyan Vapi Mosque that was allegedly built at the site of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, will be brought down. All this poses a threat to the fragile communal harmony in the region.
Simmering Tension in Varanasi
The holy city of Varanasi, which is also the constituency of the Prime Minister, is particularly on the edge. “Muslim neighbourhoods are tense. People have started stocking food and other provisions. The feeling is that anything can happen tomorrow and they want to be prepared,” says Muniza Khan, CJP’s UP Program Coordinator. “The women are particularly worried and are ensuring that their children do not step out of their homes tomorrow. Even people who operate shops and small businesses plan to keep their shutters down and stay at home on Sunday,” she adds.
Local sources also tell us that several short rallies are being carried out across the city to urge youth to travel to Ayodhya to show support for the construction of the Ram Mandir. Many provocative slogans such as “Jo Shree Ram ke kaam na aye, vyarth uski jawaani hai,” are being chanted at these rallies to galvanise young men to become a part of the pro-Mandir movement.
Even Christians have not been left in peace with members of the Akhil BHaratiya Vidyarthi Parishad painting a warning graffiti on the walls of a 64 year old Christian institution Matradham Ashram in the Chandmari area of Varanasi.
But a few important Hindu spiritual leaders have stated that the government or politicians should not be allowed to interfere in the dispute or draw political milage by exploiting people’s emotions.
Muslim groups appeal for Peace
But Muslim groups, senior clerics and social workers have taken the initiative to ensure that the minority community does not react violently to any provocation and that mob violence does not break out between Hindus and Muslims.
Clerics at the Gyan Vapi Mosque have urged people not to react to communal provocation. Mufti Batin Nomani, the Khatib and Imam of the Gyanvapi Mosque told us, “We are urging people to not pay attention to rumours and keep their emotions in check. We are asking them to maintain peace and harmony and not react violently to any form of provocation or violence.” Similar efforts are on across the state.
Frenemies try to outdo each other’s Hindutva
Meanwhile, over 5,000 Shiv Sianiks have already arrived on two special trains that were pressed into service just for this purpose. Section 144 was imposed in Ayodhya soon after the arrival of Uddhav Thackeray who is actively advocating temple construction.
Meanwhile the Shiv Sena is organising maha artis in 288 assemblies in Maharashtra is a possible snub to the BJP with whom they share power in the state. This is plain posturing aimed at showing how they are more committed to Hindutva and building the Ram Mandir, than the BJP, with whom their relationship has always been bumpy. This should ring alarm bells given how similar maha artis were a precursor to the 1992-93 Bombay Riots.