Security forces conducted a flag march in Ayodhya on Friday afternoon, while the administration stepped up the security arrangements to a new high in view of proposed 84-kosi parikrama, now renamed 84-kos pad yatra, by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) from August 25.
The last time such tight security cover was thrown in the holy city was in September 2010, when a court delivered a verdict on the disputed Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi land.
The state government is taking no chances because the VHP---70 of whose national, state and local leaders were issued arrest warrants in Faizabad---has said it will go ahead with the yatra come what may. Citing Supreme Court orders, Uttar Pradesh government has banned the yatra aimed at reviving the Ram Temple construction issue ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections.
Businessmen in Ayodhya and Faizabad are feeling the heat of the situation the most, because the number of religious tourists has fallen considerably. The heavy influx of pilgrims during Sawan Mela, from August 9 to August 21, to Ayodhya shrines has reduced a trickle now.
The state government has deployed around 25,000 personnel from Rapid Action Force (RAF), Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and the police to enforce the ban on the yatra. Besides, the state government has requested the central government to send extra central paramilitary forces.
Director general of police Deoraj Nagar has sent letters to his counterparts in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan, requesting them to pass on information about the movement of the saffron brigade.
The list of the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal leaders whose entry has been banned by Uttar Pradesh government has been also sent to the neighbouring states. The DGPs have been also urged to share intelligence on the activities of VHP leaders.
On its part, the district administration has been organising ward-wise peace meetings under the supervision of sub divisional magistrate Ram Sahai Yadav in Ayodhya.
At the same time, it has prepared a list of 70 persons, VHP chief Ashok Singhal and senior leaders such as Praveen Togadia among them, who would be arrested anytime now.
A majority of the VHP leaders based in Ayodhya, Lucknow, Faizabad, Gonda, Basti, Ambedkar Nagar and neighbouring districts have gone underground.
Campuses of ND University of Agriculture and Technology, Kumarganj, Rashtriya Vidyapeeth, Pithala and Chandra Bali Singh Degree College, Kumarganj, have been converted into temporary jails to detain those who violate the prohibitory orders and enter any of the six districts where the VHP plans to conduct the yatra.
District inspector of schools, Faizabad, Manbhawan Ram Rajbhar said the administration seeks to convert 20 more schools and colleges into temporary jails for the purpose. The listed schools and colleges would be handed over to the district administration from August 25 till further orders.
Meanwhile, VHP district president Vindhyavasini Prasad Mishra said the organisation will not withdraw the yatra "at any cost". He said though fewer people might participate in the yatra after the ban, the government will find it difficult to stop saints and mahants from entering the holy city.