Eye on future, locals of Old Delhi want to move on
In the packed lanes of Old Delhi market, shadowed by the imposing domes of the Jama Masjid, business picked up at around 9am. This Saturday was much like any other weekend - the only sign of something out of the ordinary was the presence of numerous people in khaki uniforms.
Everyone knew why.
“It [the Ayodhya verdict] is a sensitive issue,” said a local who asked not to be named. “But we are going about our daily lives.”
And so they did. Haji Miyan opened his hotel at 9am. His staff was getting ready to receive the day’s guests. Tarik Hasan Khan opened his travel agency half-an-hour later. He expected day’s collections to be like any other day — “just enough to get by”.
A man at an eatery that served nihari and paya seemed disinterested in the day’s developments too. “There is no tension here. Mostly because this has been going on for some time. What more can be said?” he asked, turning around to his staff and asking about an order that was to go out.
Several people, did not wish to speak about the verdict at all — refusing with a polite wave of the hand while going about their own way.
The police conducted motorcycle patrols; there were an additional two companies of police on the ground. Inside the police post, a few policemen carried walkie-talkies. Inspector Karan Singh stood on the balcony looking out to the Jama Masjid. “There has been no trouble so far. We had asked our men to do rounds and be alert,” he said.
Outside the grand mosque, news reporters sought sound bytes from the people.
“For the good of the nation, peace is important,” said Mohammed Aslam, a local resident. “We have to respect the decision of the Supreme Court.”
In the bylanes of the markets, a man played the news on his phone, its volume amplified by the narrowness of the road. Above, a few women peered out of the window. “I am just interested in how it will turn out,” he said, identifying himself as Ali, 26. “This is something that happened before I was born,” he said.
At the Jama Masjid, the men supervising the entrance tickets said there had not been any let up in the number of people visiting the mosque — be it tourists or the devout.
Tourist guide Sanjay Vohra was herding his flock of eight Australians. “I have told them about the pending verdict. We did not get any instructions from the police. But even then, I did not get into the game of spreading fear,” he said.
“I would like to see a temple where Ram was born. Sure, give the Muslims a mosque, too, someplace else,” he continued. “However, I think what is more important is schools and hospitals. When it comes to the Supreme Court, we should accept the verdict, whatever it is.”
Aa 10.30am approached, there were no queues at the stores to watch the news, not were there many discussions on the subject. Most street conversations dealt with work and closing business deals.
At an eatery opposite the mosque’s Gate 1, a man had earphone into one ear, his mobile streaming a Hindi news channel, while he made rotis at the same time.
A hour later, while the judgement was being delivered, the man thought he had heard the TV anchor say that evidence of a previous structure was enough to fix the title suit. “So that means it would be given for masjid?” he asked, stopping his roti-making for a while. A few minutes later, when he heard that a temple would come up at the disputed site, he was a little confused. “Maybe I misheard it,” he said, before turning to handle a fresh order to make 10 more rotis.
At 12.30pm, the call for prayers rang out from the mosque. Tourists were asked to make way for those coming to offer namaz. Children accompanied their fathers, cleaning themselves at the pool, towards the prayer hall.
“I prayed for the good of all people,” said Zakir who sells carpets in the bazaar. “Especially my business - it is not doing too well now. What is the point of dividing people on religious lines? Don’t we have the same blood?”
Travel agent Tarik Khan didn’t really want to talk about the verdict either. “Whatever happened has happened. Now we must talk about the future,” he said. “Hopefully this will be the end of it.”