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Ayodhya — then & now

Saffron bands, shrill slogans and rabble rousing — the trappings of the 1990s temple movement — are missing today. Instead, there is caution and concern.

lucknow Updated: Sep 21, 2010 01:38 IST
Sunita Aron

Saffron bands, shrill slogans and rabble rousing — the trappings of the 1990s temple movement — are missing today. Instead, there is caution and concern.

For, the nation is anxiously awaiting the verdict on the 59-year-old Rama Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit.

The dispute is over a small piece of land — 120 ft by 105 ft — where the Babri mosque stood before being torn down on December 6, 1992. Now, there is a makeshift temple on the mosque’s debris.

Since 67 acres of land, surrounding the disputed site, is under central acquisition, the heavily guarded area wears a deserted look today. Till 1991 when the BJP government of Kalyan Singh went on a demolition spree, the area was dotted with scores of temples.

This time before the Allahabad High Court verdict on the title suit on September 24, the only disturbing signal is some lawyers in black robes raising Jai Sri Ram slogans near the high court building in Lucknow on September 17. But the curiosity and the anxiety are palpable. The verdict will address some contentious issues that have been haunting both communities since 1858.

Jafaryab Jilani, who has been contesting the case since 1986 on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, said, “The court, among other issues, has to decide whether the Babri mosque was built after demolishing a temple, if the disputed site was the birthplace of Lord Rama, whether the disputed structure was a mosque and when was it constructed and by whom.”

Another aspect of the janmabhoomi drama is that the three judges of the bench hearing the suit are not on the same wavelength. The differences came to the fore when one of the judges had accepted a petition seeking deferment of the verdict.

With time, the protagonists of the Rama temple have mellowed their tone, talking only about the law of the land. The RSS’s saffron brigade is no longer threatening to go the people’s court. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said, “We will react within the law in case of an adverse verdict.”

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has no mass mobilisation plan either. VHP leader Ashok Singhal last visited Ayodhya sometime in August and no immediate plan to revisit the town.

The head of Ram Janma Bhumi Nyas, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, is not present in the city. He is much mellowed than his predecessor, Ramchandra Paramhans, who had organised VHPs Chaitavani rath yatra in 2001 and Shila daan in 2002.

What’s more, the leaders who spearheaded the temple movement in the 1990s have aged by 18 years. Their thunder of December 1992 — Kar Seva… would not be limited to the singing of bhajan and kirtan — has been replaced with a tame advisory to remain peaceful.

The Sant Samaj that had remained on the forefront has disintegrated. Where are Sadhvi Rithambara, Mahant Avaidnath, and Mahant Adityanath?

Yet, people are wary. Despite Kalyan Singh making promises to the Supreme Court, the mosque was razed to the ground, which — according to Liberhan Commission’s report — was part of a deep conspiracy.

The BJP did not even keep its promise of building a magnificent Rama temple there. The party, instead, shelved the plan when it was in power.

The Muslims, whose faith in the federal setup got dented during the temple movement, are now confident, as they feel that their case is strong. But the younger lot is quite restive and demand justice.

A young Imam summed it up for the media: “We were born post 1992 and are prepared for every eventuality.”

(Tomorrow – The case, the litigants and the conciliatory efforts)