THERE WAS some fear and some hope. But after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, the mood in Ayodhya was that of relief.
“I cannot speak on behalf of others but for me, the case is closed,” Iqbal Ansari, who is one of the litigants in the case, told The Indian Express. “Accha hai, bawal khatam hua (It’s good that the issue has been resolved),” said Altaf Ansari, the young nephew of Iqbal Ansari.
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At Ground Zero of the decades-old case, the day began with business as usual: Pilgrims started arriving at the makeshift Ramlalla temple and Hanuman Garhi, shops selling puja material opened on time, and the local priests were busy preparing for daily pujas.
But as the verdict came though on smartphones at tea stalls and shops, a sense of foreboding took over with the stream of pilgrims thinning visibly, shopkeepers downing shutters and the talk turning to stocking up vegetables and LPG cylinders. “Curfew na lag jaye (Hope curfew is not imposed),” said a local resident at a tea stall.
“Devotees have stopped coming. Why should we keep the shops open?” said Angad Kumar Saini, who sells gift items near the makeshift temple. “The barricading and security checks have led to the fear that there might be a curfew soon,” he said.
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Soon, security forces stepped up their vigil as some scenes of celebrations were seen near Hanuman Garhi, where crackers were burst and sweets distributed — and a sadhu was seen dancing with a flag in his hand. At Karsewakpuram, where a model of the proposed Ram temple is kept, a group of students from a Sanskrit school placed a big pot of kheer on wooden blocks for distribution.
“We are happy with the judgment and want the construction of the temple to start as soon as possible… and the trust (mandated by the court) to be formed as soon as possible,” said Triloki Nath Pandey, who represented Ram Lalla Virajman in the case.
“I am happy that 5 acres have been given for the mosque. We have no reservations… there are already 30-32 mosques in Ayodhya. Our ancestors are the same… I am sure that Muslims will not only support the construction of the Ram temple but also offer their respects,” said Pandey, who is also the organisation secretary of the VHP.
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“Maintaining peace is of utmost importance and showing patience in expressing feelings,” said Sharad Sharma, the VHP spokesperson in Ayodhya who is monitoring activity at the Parishad’s temple workshop.
A few kilometres away, Iqbal Ansari said that he respected the court’s decision and would not challenge it. “My father fought for it and it came down to me. I had said in the past and repeat today that the court’s verdict is acceptable to us. I will not pursue the case further,” Ansari said.
Ansari’s nephew, Altaf, who lives next door and drives an autorickshaw, said: “The land for the mosque will be given in Ayodhya itself. It’s now the responsibility of the government.”
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As the day progressed, pilgrims from other parts of the state, and some from as far as Nepal, were scrambling to board buses to return home. By noon, most of the streets in Ayodhya town wore a deserted look.
“We have come from Nepal and would have left later but there is so much talk about a probable curfew,” said Vasudev Jaiswal, who had come from Kapilvastu in Nepal.
Santosh Tiwari, one of the priests at the makeshift temple, said: “The number of pilgrims today has reduced drastically despite the fact that visitors are being allowed as per the routine schedule.” A security personnel said, “Usually, about 14,000 pilgrims visit the temple by this time every day. But today, only about 800 have visited so far.”
By evening, amid reports of calm, some shopkeepers were back in business, devotees gathered for the Saryu aarti at Naya Ghat, and traffic jams were seen in Ayodhya town. “This dispute has been going on since the time of our ancestors. But now, it has ended,” said a local resident.