20 years hence, Ayodhya still treads on communal waters
As twenty years complete since India saw one of its most deplorable incidents, locals in Ayodhya and Faizabad claimed that there had been consistent attempts in recent past to incite communal hatred at their respective places.
Even after twenty years, communal forces on both sides still try to reinvigorate the sensitive issue.
This, despite the fact that the present generation is least interested in mandir masjid matters.
On the second day of Ramzan in 2012, the districts treaded dangerously on the communal waters after an unauthorized construction came up near a local mosque in Faizabad cantonment.
Though the illegal construction, as now known, was largely unrelated to any religious outfit, it was used by some communal forces to whip passions among the communities.
Huge protests by the aggrieved community ensued.
The police, gauging the sensitivity of the situation, deployed a company of Police Armed Constabulary (PAC) on the disputed site. The press has been barred, since then, from taking pictures of the site, neither the villagers allowed to talk about the incident. An uneasy calm prevails in Faizabad.
The situation bears an uncanny resemblance to the Ayodhya dispute.
Taking into account the whole situation, Uttar Pradesh Police is not taking any chances. UP police’s IG (law and order) informed that the entire Faizabad district had been divided into 14 zones, with 12 companies of PAC expected to keep vigil on the fateful day of December 6. Further, 10 companies of PAC have been kept at standby in Lucknow to thwart any toward incident.
Jalal Ahmed, who is a prominent theatre personality and even acted in Bollywood, thought that everything in Faizabad was planned ahead of time. A resident of the same Faizabad cantonment where the mosque dispute took place in Ramzan, even Ahmed elicited surprise on the action taken by district authorities in the mosque incident. The officials had sealed the mosque, and made it out of bound for the devotees.
Ahmed recalled that even in the case of Babri Masjid in 1992, the mosque had been closed down after some initial disturbances.
Even the local residents blamed the police for their imprudent actions in cordoning the mosque.
Islam Saalik, who is a lawyer and runs a village school, claimed that the dispute between the mosque and the resident had been going on for quite some time now.“It’s an entirely personal dispute which has been given a communal colour,” added Islam.
Even Islam blamed the police for their actions, most notably in sealing the mosque like Babri Masjid had been done twenty years ago.
However, as the cantonment mosque remained a sole place of worship in the village, people of the community vociferously protested. Unlike in 1992, cellphones made it possible this time to mobilize crowd against the police’s action.
The police, finally, had to relent and leave the spot.
Islam said that the situation was exploited to fullest by some organizations including Hindu Yuva Vahini and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He stated that frequent meetings, which were organized by these groups, had started to take place around the village premises. “Even the village head took an active part in these meeting,” claimed the lawyer.
The issue insidiously spilled over to educational institutions, where more than 100 students of a ‘different’ community were expelled from the school. Consequently, they were left in a lurch in middle of an academic term with nowhere to go.
In a show of solidarity to counter the communal propaganda, few prominent members of various Muslim organizations joined hands with Hindu priests, and some distinguished citizens to find an amicable solution to the dispute.
It was disclosed by All India Milli Council Executive Member Khaliq Ahmed Khan that on September 14, they had even appealed to the district administration to take the help of ‘higher’ authorities to resolve the dispute.
But their request has been kept in abeyance till now.
According to some people, the stealing of idols from Raja Diara’s temple on September 21-22 gave oxygen to the extinguishing mosque controversy.
Throwing light on the mosque incident, Anil Singh argued that despite of presence of 25-30 devotees in the temple at time of theft, the idols were stolen. “It seems impossible an action to accomplish in broad daylight,” added Singh.
The college professor also blamed BJP MP Yogi Adityanath for creating a strong communal issue by protesting against the idol theft, without even having knowing the ‘full facts of the case’.
Yogi Adityanath’s public protests, which lasted for always twenty days, saw irrational outbursts against a particular community. While all this happened, the authorities merely watched.
Awadh National Forum member Shah Alam claimed that the demonstrations were carried out with active involvement of regional units of the BJP.
“Even the youth was roped in these protests, giving them menacingly dangerous proportions,” complains Alam.
Meanwhile, the police recovered the stolen idol and the temple priest reinstated it. But, in a press conference next day, the Raja himself revealed that the recovered idol was counterfeit. Surprisingly, the village priest accepted the statue without any fuss.
Strangely enough, the priest hasn’t been questioned in the theft case till now.
After Yogi Adityanath had made his displeasure known in the idol theft case, he headed to Ayodhya. Once there, Adityanath brazenly threatened people of one community on a public platform.
While he tried to incite one community to expel the other from the city limits, the authorities continued twiddling their thumbs.
From there, Adityanath took off for the village of Mirzapur to the disputed site.
Luckily, he was prevented by the authorities from reaching his destination.
Incidentally, Yogi’s journey to Mirzapur came twenty years after the Babri dispute crescendoed into a national nightmare.
VHP, however, attributed the prevailing communal unease to the Akhilesh Yadav regime.
Ram Vilas Vedanti of VHP recounted an instance which, according to him, epitomized the attitude of the Samajwadi Party regime.
“Few days ago, a Hindu religious procession was galled by few goons while it was on its way to a nearby river. The thugs passed lewd remarks on women, thus prompting the Hindus to approach the police.
Surprisingly, police didn’t lodge a single complaint against the offenders. On the contrary, they booked Hindu men who were away in Delhi and Mumbai, even when they were not present at the spot at the time of incident,” explained Vedanti.
But the local police got caught in its own web of lies. The truth, as learnt, that all the accused involved in the idol theft case were Hindus denied local police’s earlier claims.
To justify a communal angle, police implicated and arrested a youth from Azamgarh.
The person’s family had to petition to the district SP, to enquire about the grounds on which he was arrested.
Ironically, the date of filing of the petition preceded the date of arrest of the accused as showed by police, by a week.
The arrested person’s folks had even invoked the habeas corpus in the Allahabad High court just three days after his actual arrest, thus making it impossible for the police to justify the arrest.
Talking about the significance of December 6, VHP’s Vedanti said that like every year, even this year the date would be commemorated as Shaurya Divas(Bravery day). He claimed that Hindus from all walks of life would assemble in Faizabad on this day and display their valour.
Veteran journalist K.P Singh, who covered the Ram lalla movement extensively, blamed Yogi Adityanath of attempting to indoctrinate the youth with his irrational religious appeals.
And Singh felt that the Yogi has been quite successful in creating an atmosphere of tension in Faizabad.
“The bitterness among communities that was absent in 1992 is perceptible now,” bemoaned Singh.