The state government and police are taking several precautions to ensure calm prevails after the Ayodhya verdict scheduled for Thursday.
About 2.5 lakh policemen and Central forces, including 25,000 home guards and eight Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalions, will be deployed across the state.
The Home Department has categorised areas that have a history of communal violence as sensitive. These areas will be patrolled mainly by Central forces.
The Centre has categorised 32 cities, including Mumbai as sensitive and six states, including Maharashtra, as highly sensitive. Home Department sources said Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Sangli are on high alert, apart from communally sensitive areas such as Malegaon.
“The CRPF will patrol ultra-sensitive areas, the State Reserve Police Force will man moderately sensitive areas, while the police will patrol the rest of the state,” said Chief Secretary JP Dange.
Additional Chief Secretary Chandra Iyengar said local superintendents of police and police chiefs had been empowered to carry out preventive arrests before Thursday. “We have given clear orders that law and order cannot be compromised,” said Iyengar.
Home Minister RR Patil appealed for peace, reiterating that the verdict could be appealed in the Supreme Court if any party was unhappy with it. He said legislators and guardian ministers would remain in their constituencies on Thursday and the police have met with mohalla committees and community leaders.
Bulk SMS services continue to be suspended for the next few days.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Rajkumar Vhatkar said this was to curb rumour mongering. “Rumours play a major role in spreading panic and instigating violence. Group SMS, which can reach thousands simultaneously, can be misused,” he said.
The centralised bandobast will begin from the midnight on Wednesday.
Vhatkar said all places of worship and religious institutions will be protected. “Already Siddhivinayak temple and Mahim dargah have been given 24-hour security. Armed policemen will be stationed at places of worship, however small they may be, in sensitive localities,” he said.
Vhatkar said the police are rounding up anti-social elements. If needed, certain politicians will be issued orders barring them from issuing provocative statements.
He said the police had not asked schools and colleges to stay shut on Thursday. “We appeal to everyone to go about their routines as usual,” he added.
Senior police officers met to chalk out traffic strategy for the day. The traffic police have been asked to have all personnel on duty and to arrange diversions if required.
Vhatkar said the deployment would continue till the situation was perceived to be normal.