Ayodhya: It is 5 pm and Ayodhya has lit up. Policemen who had been on their toes, patrolling the streets ahead of the Supreme Court’s Ram Janmabhoomi verdict, have started to retire to their respective police posts.
Walking through the narrow by-lanes of the area, one can hear mahants reciting a chapter on Ram’s homecoming from the epic Ramayan, broadcast through speakers installed outside temples.
A few metres ahead, the same episode from Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan is being played on a big screen.
In the market area of Hanuman Garhi, the sweet shops are abuzz with people buying jalebis for prasad and congratulating each other. The temples, meanwhile, are holding special prayers dedicated to Lord Ram and his early life in Ayodhya.
Ayodhya residents had spent the day indoors because the town was under Section 144 for security reasons. But by evening, with no eruptions reported, police had eased restrictions and citizens could move around freely.
Although it is a big day for the residents here, with the Supreme Court issuing a verdict allowing a Hindu temple at the disputed site, the celebrations are rather subdued.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ayodhya residents said the decision to keep the celebrations low-key was “deliberate”.
“We are extremely happy that the verdict is in our favour but we do not want to celebrate by bursting crackers or taking out processions because our Muslim brothers may feel offended,” Ved Prakash, who runs a shop in the area, said.
“Police had also requested us to maintain law and order and not circulate messages on WhatsApp or hold rallies, so that peace can be maintained, and everybody here agreed,” he added. “This is why most of us are just visiting the temple to offer prasad to Lord Ram, will join the aarti and then return home.”
The law and order situation in the city, too, remained largely peaceful. There were a few incidents involving some bikers trying to burst crackers outside Muslim homes, but police stepped in immediately and asked them to leave.
“Some youths tried to burst crackers outside shops and households of Muslims but were asked to leave immediately,” a police officer said. “The situation remained peaceful and there were no incidents of any clash reported.”
VHP distributes kheer made from cow milk
While residents chose to keep the affair subdued, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has been at the forefront of the campaign for a temple at Ram Janmabhoomi, sought to orchestrate a community celebration.
The group, which has a workshop in the Karsevak Puram area where bricks engraved with “Jai Shri Ram” and stones with carvings are being readied for the temple, ordered the distribution of kheer and laddoos to all locals.
The kheer and laddoos were both made with milk from a gaushala run by the VHP.
“We knew that the order will be in our favour and so we had told our people that kheer from pure cow milk and laddoos made of pure ghee shall be distributed to everyone,” Hazari Lal, a kar sevak and member of the VHP, said. “It is a big day for all of us.”
Some VHP members also played with colours on the streets of Ayodhya, but were stopped by police.
‘No Hindu-Muslim clash’
Over the past few decades, Ayodhya has constantly courted headlines as the epicentre of perhaps the most bristling conflict between India’s Hindus and Muslims.
Despite this, say residents, there have been no instances of Hindu-Muslim clashes.
“We are used to news channels coming here and talking about Hindu-Muslim, the disputed site, but we have never had any riot-like situation here,” Vijay Yadav, who runs a school, said.
His childhood friend Salman agreed. “We have grown up and studied together in Ayodhya and have never heard of any clash between Hindus and Muslims,” he added. “These differences are created by politicians for their own gains.”
Police confirmed that no Hindu-Muslim clashes had been reported from Ayodhya in a long time.
“Sometimes there are minor disputes, but no major clash has been reported,” a senior police officer said. “It is mostly elements from outside who come here and create a ruckus and make the situation tense. This area is largely peaceful always.”
‘Time to concentrate on other things’
For local residents, the verdict is like a weight off their shoulders. Since the verdict is now out, they say, Ayodhya can now concentrate on “other things”.
“It is high time… this issue should not be dragged any further. We all accept it and should now concentrate on other things like increasing our tourism,” Javed, a local resident, said.
“The government should now concentrate on building better infrastructure here including schools and hospitals and generating employment,” he added.
A local businessman who runs a sweet shop said it was “time to move on now and concentrate on our economy”.
Ram Das Pujari, 102, who claims to have taken part in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, said he was struggling to believe that the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of a Ram temple. He will believe it when he sees it in the papers, he added.
“Is the news of the verdict out in the papers?” he asked. “A lot of people say things but I do not believe them. If it has happened then it is a big thing. I have witnessed each development in this matter closely.”
Pujari said he just wanted the temple to get constructed as soon as possible. “I wish it happens while I am alive,” he added. “I was also a part of the Babri Masjid demolition and would want to see a temple there.”
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