CITIES and towns across India are on a state of alert ahead of a crucial Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya tomorrow (9).
More than 5,000 paramilitary force members and police have been deployed in the northern town of Ayodhya, where an ancient mosque was razed in 1992 by hardline Hindus who believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The destruction of the mosque triggered religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country and led to a series of court battles with various groups staking claim to the site.
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its decision at 10.30 am on Saturday on who should control the site late next week as thousands of Hindu monks and devotees have been arriving in Ayodhya for the judgment.
“Thousands of (additional) security personnel from different agencies have been deployed in and around Ayodhya. Additional vehicles, CCTV cameras, body cameras and drones too have been brought in,” Ayodhya police senior superintendent Ashish Tiwari said.
At the same time, various government agencies are making their preparations to thwart any violence.
“Each and every security officer is committed to prevent minor skirmishes or large-scale riots after the court delivers its verdict,” said a senior home ministry official in New Delhi,
“State governments have identified several schools to set up temporary jails if the need arises,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
Hindu groups say a temple existed on the site before the mosque was built in 1528 by a Muslim ruler.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has long campaigned on a promise to support the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of the razed mosque.
Ayodhya is in densely populated Uttar Pradesh state, home to more than five per cent of India’s 200 million Muslims.
Provincial police chief Om Prakash Singh said precautionary measures were in place and social media platforms were being monitored to track inflammatory posts ahead of the verdict.
“We will not tolerate Hindus or Muslims publicly displaying their reaction to the court verdict,” Singh said.
Tiwari said: “The police is also making other efforts to ensure that things remain calm. We have enlisted around 16,000 digital volunteers from 1,600 villages in the region to help monitor and flag sensitive content on the social media.”
The monitors will report what they deem is inappropriate content to police, who could then try to track down the posters and demand that they delete their posts or messages.
Ayodhya – considered one of the holiest Hindu sites – is visited by religious pilgrims from all over India throughout the year.
Around one million pilgrims are expected to be there early next week for a bathing ritual in the Saryu river that flows in the region.
“We just have to stay alert and sensitive to the security of the visiting pilgrims,” Ayodhya district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said.
Muslim clerics in Gujarat and Maharashtra states called for peace meetings with Hindu leaders in communally sensitive areas ahead of Friday prayers.
Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the top forum for Islamic organisations, said thousands of Muslim religious leaders had vowed to maintain peace and harmony after the court verdict.
“The land can belong to Hindus or Muslims, but there will be no repeat of the 1992 communal violence,” said Hamid.