Thursday was expected to be one of the most tense nights for security personnel deployed in Ayodhya and of course for the people living in the town where the disputed Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site is located.
After sundown, Ayodhya was supposed to have all routes to it blocked — for those wishing to enter it and for those wishing to leave it.
A flag march was conducted in the afternoon, a day before the verdict day for the Ayodhya title suit was to be delivered by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. The local police had ordered all markets to shut down. People were tense and remained indoors.
And suddenly the surcharged atmosphere in this temple town transformed into one of relief and relaxation soon after TV news channels started beaming news that the Supreme Court had deferred the announcement of the verdict on the title suit.
Cops took off their helmets, chest guards, and shin guards. And thronged to shops selling tea and samosas which were opened after the news percolated through the town.
“So you want to capture us in a relaxed mood. Go ahead. We are indeed relaxed,” commented a police constable to a photojournalist.
Several shopkeepers opened their shops around 7 pm. “I now, I won’t have a lot of business at this time when we normally close shop for the day.
But I have opened it because it is giving a good feeling,” said Rajesh Pathak, who has a provision store near the main street to the disputed site.
People spilled out on to the streets. Several hundred journalists from across the country who camped in the town began checking out of their hotels. And the town came alive at night.
But people also know that this just might a temporary spell of normalcy.
“This was much needed relief. We know things are still uncertain. On the flip side, the uncertainty for the town has been prolonged by the Supreme Court’s decision. Why can’t there be clarity. Confusion will continue,” said Zohra Begum, who sells dholaks (drums) at the Hardwari Bazaar.