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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Security dragnet in Ayodhya ahead of Supreme Court verdict today

The ruling will mark the culmination of a dispute that has been at the heart of communal friction in the country for decades, and comes at a time when there are millions of Hindu pilgrims gathered at Ayodhya for the religious event of Kartik Purnima.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2019 09:55 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Ayodhya/ New Delhi
Police personnel near the site of disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, in Ayodhya, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019 its verdict in the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya.
Police personnel near the site of disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, in Ayodhya, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019 its verdict in the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya. (PTI)
         

People in Ayodhya rushed to buy essential supplies late on Friday as the administration asked citizens to stay indoors and keep businesses closed, clamping a lockdown on the city in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling in the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid dispute that was scheduled to be read out at 10.30am on Saturday.

The ruling will mark the culmination of a dispute that has been at the heart of communal friction in the country for decades, and comes at a time when there are millions of Hindu pilgrims gathered at Ayodhya for the religious event of Kartik Purnima.

WATCH | ‘Elaborate policing; confidence-building measures’: Ayodhya SSP on security ahead of SC verdict

“As news of the verdict coming tomorrow (Saturday) was flashed on news channels, people rushed to nearby shops to buy essential items fearing total clampdown in town after the verdict,” said Uttam Chand, a shopkeeper near Faizabad (now Ayodhya) roadways bus stand.

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“I hope Ayodhya remains peaceful. We do not want a repetition of the December 6, 1992 events in Ayodhya,” added 49-year-old Abbas Qureshi of Mughalpura colony.

Iqbal Ansari, one of the litigants in the title dispute, said there was anxiety but he was not worried.

“Anxiety and apprehension is normal for any Muslim living in Ayodhya when the Supreme Court is about to deliver its verdict in the Ayodhya case. But I am confident that Ayodhya will remain peaceful. Both the Centre and the state government have ensured complete safety for the Muslims this time,” says Ansari.

Senior police officials said on Friday that police across the state and approximately 11,000 personnel sent to Ayodhya were put on high alert.

Director General of Police for Uttar Pradesh, OP Singh, said internet services could be blocked in any part of the state if required, and that temporary prisons had been set up in districts.

Security was enhanced in sensitive districts such as Meerut, Moradabad, Agra, Aligarh, Prayagraj, Lucknow and Gorakhpur.

DGP Singh and Uttar Pradesh’s chief secretary met chief justice Ranjan Gogoi in Delhi on Friday and was later in Agra to review the security arrangements.

“The social media cell of Uttar Pradesh Police is on alert and we are keeping an eye on objectionable tweets, comments, posts. We have marked 673 active accounts on social media for creating nuisance and cases are being registered. Internet could be blocked if a need is felt in any district,” the DGP said.

The Gautam Buddh Nagar administration said social media posts and WhatsApp messages that incite communal hatred or violence would draw severe punishment, including jail term. The offenders would not only be arrested but action against them would be taken under the Gangsters Act and the National Security Act (NSA), district magistrate BN Singh said in an official statement.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath urged people not to fall for rumours and to ensure that peace is maintained across the country.

“We have marked out hot spots and have an eye on anti-social elements. In-charges of concerned police station have been told to be on vigil. Senior police officials are asked to hit the road for visible policing and remain mobile through foot patrolling and random checking,” Singh added.

The DGP said the security plan for Ayodhya, where prohibitory orders were imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, included teams of paramilitary and the Fire Department on stand-by.

“We have got 40 companies of para-military and have asked for more to maintain law and order situation in state. The situation is to be looked into through rule of law by taking all communities into confidence,” said Singh.

Administration officials in various districts, including those adjoining the National Capital Region, issued separate orders for all schools, colleges, educational institutions and training centres to be closed from Saturday to Monday as a precautionary measure.

A five-judge bench, led by CJI Gogoi, held a 40-day marathon hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute till October 16. Gogoi is due to have his last day in court before retirement on November 15, and is expected to deliver several key rulings in addition to the Ayodhya case. The others include the review petition on the order outlawing the ban on women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala and the review petition in the case seeking an investigation into the Rafale fighter jet deal.