Shops and educational institutions were shut and roads wore a deserted look Saturday in the old city of Hyderabad as a day-long shutdown was observed amid tight security to mark the 16th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid.
Several Muslim political and religious organisations have called for observing a 'Black Day' to protest the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya December 6, 1992.
The strike is total in the old city as black flags were put up on roof tops and on streets. The usual hustle-bustle around the historic Charminar and Mecca Masjid was missing. There were very few vehicles on the roads, while the bangles and bridal wear market Laad Bazar, hotels, jewellery and pearl shops, and the cloth market were shut.
An unprecedented security cover was thrown around the old city and other sensitive areas to prevent any untoward incident. Police banned meetings and rallies and imposed prohibitory orders across the city.
More than 15,000 police personnel including those from the paramilitary Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed to deal with any eventuality. A large number of them were deployed in the communally sensitive old city, which has witnessed violence on this day in the past.
Muslims constitute 40 percent of the city's seven million population and they are an overwhelming majority in the old city.
Police have made tight security arrangements near the historic Mecca Masjid to prevent any group from taking out processions. Though such arrangements are made every year, the police are extra cautious this time in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai and also Wednesday's incident in the city in which four terror suspects escaped after opening fire, injuring two policemen.
Viqar Ahmed, an alleged former activist of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and city-based Darasgah Jihad-o-Shadat (DJS), and three of his accomplices are still at large.
Police refused permission to any group to organise rallies anywhere in the city. DJS is the only organisation that has been holding a rally every year at Indira Park, outside the old city. DJS was not given permission this time as pressure is mounting on the police to act tough against the outfit, which is accused of breeding terror.