Saurabh Sharma | Nov 23, 2018 | 7 min read
Fearful Muslims leave Ayodhya before the arrival of Shiv Sena Chief
Nimish Goswami and Saurabh Sharma
Ayodhya: A sense of uneasiness has settled amongst the Muslim community in Ayodhya, two weeks before the demolition anniversary of Babri mosque, as a large number of Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) members have reached town to attend a Dharm Sabha, scheduled on November 25.
Observing the influx of right-wing workers in Ayodhya, local residents have been struck by fear of a repetition of 1992, when the Babri mosque was demolished by Karsevaks and Shiv Sena workers and the ensuing riots took lives of scores of Muslims. Several families have already moved out of the town towards safer spaces, while others have sent children and women out of fear of violence.
“We do not have any problem with Hindus or with the construction of Ram Temple here, but we are fearful that it may be a repetition of 1992 when many of our brothers were killed by the Karsevaks in the violence that broke out post Babri demolition,” says Mohammad Aziz, a 46-year-old tailor from the Alam Ganj Katra mohalla, an area close to the Ram Janma Bhoomi Nyas.
At least 18 Muslims were killed, their houses and shops torched and 23 local mosques were destroyed after the demolition of Babri Mosque on the evening of 6 December, 1992, but no cases were registered of this riot.
Aziz says that the families who have moved to safer places would return to town only when the situation settles down. He also added that the district administration should assure social security to Muslim people living in Ayodhya. “The situation is like what happened in 1992. The crowd gathered in a similar fashion and no one knows who is coming with what intention. They demolished the mosque then, killed our people and they can do anything now. I will also leave for my relative’s home in Gorakhpur along with my family, and there is no sense in staying here and risking our lives,” said Aziz.
Iqbal Ansari, 52, one of the main petitioners of the demolished Babri case says that Muslims in Ayodhya have developed a stigma that violence may break out if a crowd gathers and that they are reeling under constant fear - “The district administration says that people are coming here only to visit their God, but who knows what is on their mind and why, suddenly, are they coming to Ayodhya close to the anniversary date,” Ansari asks.
Ansari also added that his attempts to prevent the Muslim community from fleeing town proved futile. “A reporter told me that Shiv Sena members have come to Ayodhya in two trains, which reached at 11 pm, and it is very obvious that Muslims will be in fear due to such a large number of Shiv Sainiks coming here,” he said.
Mahboob Mohammad, a 44-year-old fodder trader from Alam Ganj Katra area, says, “While some say nothing is expected to happen, remaining say that anything could happen. We are terrorised due to it. We do not want to live here. In 1992, they charred many people to death and indulged in vandalism across Ayodhya. The police was also helpless that time. We had to run to save our lives then and I am very sure that all Muslims will leave Ayodhya.” Mohammad also added that the Muslims of Ayodhya do not fear the local Hindu community, but only the outsiders who are “capable of anything”.
Mahant Paramhans Das of Tapasvi ji ki Chhavni, a structure close to the disputed site, who recently sat on a hunger strike demanding speedy construction of Ram Mandir, when asked about this, said that it is ‘just drama’ and that there is no situation or fear in Ayodhya for Muslims to leave town. “I know a few of them have left and my people have told me about it, but let me make it clear that this is just a stunt to get media attention and nothing else. If they are fearful and something unexpected happens, then I myself will save them and welcome them with open arms. They can come and live at my place till the time they want to. I am repeating it again that everything in Ayodhya is very normal.”
Sharad Sharma, communications in-charge of VHP stated that Muslims need not leave the town as there is nothing to fear. “All our people are coming to participate in the Dharma Sabha and nothing else. If anyone is scared, then our Akharas and Temples are open for them.” A Dharma Sabha is organized to discuss community issues with saints and seers and this time the topic of discussion is the construction of Ram Temple.
Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray is in Ayodhya today, and is expected to visit the Ram Lala temple during the second half of the day. Later, he is said to meet saints and seers for blessings. The district administration has denied permission to the Shiv Sena for holding any kind of public meeting, VHP however, has been given permission to host the Dharma Sabha.
Security personnel in Ayodhya seem divided in their understanding of the situation.
Following news reports of Muslims fleeing Ayodhya, District Magistrate Anil Kumar visited various families and their representatives to assure them of security. “I personally met about 100 Muslims and told them not to fear. There is no fear in them and everything is normal. The VHP have obtained prior permissions. They have ensured that the programmes will only be conducted based on conditions given to them,” he said.
According to Kumar, one additional director general of police, one director general of police, three senior superintendent of police, 10 assistant superintendent of police, 21 deputy superintendent of police, 160 Inspectors, 700 Constables, 42 Companies of PAC, five Companies of RAF, ATS Commandos and Drone Cameras have been deployed in Ayodhya for maintaining law and order.
Ayodhya police told Firstpost that adequate security measures have been taken to tackle any kind of situation and nothing untoward is expected to happen. Pradyumn Singh, station house officer at Ram Janma Bhoomi police station says that the police has yet not received any complaint of Muslims feeling the area, but that around seven to eight families, out of the 30-40 in the area, have left town. “There is no tension in the area and I am in regular touch with people of both communities. I do not know the exact number of Muslim families in my area, but Hindus are in majority here. The cases highlighted by the media are from the Alam Ganj Karta area, which is a Muslim-dominated area. We have talked to families and assured them of security. So far the situation is peaceful and will remain peaceful as adequate security measures have been taken by the police,” he said.
When asked about the sudden increase in number of visitors to Ayodhya, he said it is due to the festive season and the annual Kartik Mela.
However, Ayodhya SSP Joginder Kumar tells Firstpost that no one from Ayodhya has migrated anywhere, and that news reports are fake and baseless.
According to Raunak Agrahari, a receptionist at the A P Palace, Ayodhya, all the rooms at his hotel were booked a week in advance by the Shiv Sena, and that the situation is similar in most hotels in the region. “The rooms have been booked by Shiv Sena and our partner hotels in other parts of this temple town are also booked. It would be better to stay in Basti or Gorakhpur city,” he said. Five other hotels in Ayodhya town gave a similar response.
According to 2011 census the Ayodhya Nagar Palika Parishad has a population of 55,890 people, out of which Muslims comprise 6.19% of the population.
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