Accident prone area, reads a road sign on the Lucknow-Ayodhya highway. While the sign board refers to a particular stretch near the city, the caution may well apply to the whole of Ayodhya.
Hindu pilgrims walk past security personnel standing guard in Ayodhya. (AP Photo)
The temple town is going through a déjà vu moment. Security forces are conducting flag marches, sants and mahants are either on the run or plotting to subvert the government plan, or busy slamming each other.
Roads in the city bear a barren look despite the heavy deployment of armed forces to prevent saints from taking part in the now-banned chaurasi kos yatra from Sunday. On the 20th anniversary of the demolition day (December 6, 1992) last year, Ayodhya had shown signs of shedding the bitter memories.
Some Muslims marriages took place (none had been solemnised on the day for 20 years, as a mark of protest). And the laptop-tablet generation appeared to be disinterested in temple talk. "We want peace. We want progress," they chanted in unison.
But now as Ayodhya gears up for a likely showdown between the VHP and the SP government, peace, again, is on the verge of being pushed out by politics.
The VHP is playing up the 'Hindu pride' tune to rake up the Ram temple sentiment and to justify its backing of the 'all-saint' foot march (though former BJP MPs and VHP leaders are also a part of it).
"We will take it out, come what may," says former BJP MP Ram Vilas Vedanti. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, too, has backed the yatra.
The UP government has cited the unusual timing (the march has always taken place in April) to ban it.
One doesn't have to be a political analyst to reach an obvious conclusion. That the yatra has become a tool for both the UP government and saffron brigade to reach out to their vote banks. Ayodhya is caught in political crossfire yet again. Assessing the damage won't be easy.