The Uttar Pradesh government has deployed heavy security for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s Dharma Sabha in the twin towns of Faizabad and Ayodhya on November 25, a show of strength for which the outfit expects a turnout of “two lakh Ram bhakts, more than what was witnessed in 1992”.
With the BJP and the RSS pulling out all stops to mobilise people for the event and with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray reaching Ayodhya on Saturday, where he will address party workers on Sunday, police are taking no chances. Three senior IPS officers have been deputed to supervise the security arrangements at programmes of the VHP and Shiv Sena. The Dharma Sabha will be held at Bade Bhakt Mal Ki Baghia, around 300 metres from the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas workshop.
ADG (Technical Services) Ashutosh Pandey, DIG (Jhansi range) Subhash Baghel and ADG (Lucknow zone) Rajiv Krishna have been camping in Ayodhya since Friday. In a statement from Lucknow, ADG (Law and order) Anand Kumar said Ayodhya city has been divided into nine zones and 17 sectors to draft the security plan. Besides, the government has deployed 42 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, five companies of the Rapid Action Force, ATS commandos and drone cameras to maintain law and order in Ayodhya.
Police sources said heavy deployment of security has been made along the roads leading to the disputed site since those reaching Ayodhya for the programmes of the VHP and Shiv Sena are expected to visit the makeshift Ram temple. While the security bandobast stood in full gear, there was no unsual rush on the roads of Ayodhya on Saturday, the eve of the VHP’s Dharma Sabha, except for Shiv Sainiks who walked down the streets with saffron flags. Hotels and dharamshalas in the town were heavily booked, with Shiv Sena leaders, including its MPs, MLAs and workers from Maharashtra, occupying prominent hotels. The BJP and VHP too have booked rooms for their senior functionaries who are likely to land in the city on Sunday.
Though BJP leaders were not present at the venue on Saturday, party MLAs had put up hoardings welcoming “devotees” to the Dharma Sabha. “No BJP leader and senior functionary is here yet but they will reach on Sunday morning. They will come here as Ram bhakts,” said an RSS pracharak overseeing the arrangements.
RSS sarkaryavah Suresh Joshi ‘Bhaiyyaji’ had earlier this week visited the makeshift Ram temple and reviewed preparations of the Dharma Sabha. On Sunday, the VHP will hold similar Dharma Sabhas in Nagpur and Bengaluru on November 25, a Sabha in Mumbai on December 2 and a bigger congregation in New Delhi on December 9. There was, however, little enthusiasm among the locals, who saw it as an event organised by “outsiders”.
Ram Sunder Das, a priest at Hanuman Gadhi, said, “Both the VHP and Shiv Sena events appear to be tactics to get political mileage. If the BJP brings in a legislation or an ordinance, it will get votes and come back to power again. But if it takes no steps for the Ram temple, it will have to suffer loss of votes.” The Ram temple debate had been revived in September, when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said in New Delhi that the temple should be built in Ayodhya at the “earliest”.