'Terror of communal forces won't affect us'
Even as political jamboree keeps Ayodhya on tenterhooks, locals in the Muslim-dominated town seek peaceful resolution of the crisis
As two truckloads of policemen negotiate through a serpentine, narrow road that leads to the main bazaar, the residents of Bhadarsa, a dusty town known as 'Mini Pakistan', start feeling the heat of what is brewing in the sensitive precinct of Faizabad district, which was recently renamed Ayodhya.
The weekend has brought the locals face to face with their greatest fear, thanks to the jamboree, planned by the Shiv Sena, Vishva Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. While Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will be meeting thousands of Hindu saints and religious heads, a VHP-RSS backed rally is scheduled in Ayodhya, today. The demand for constructing the Ram temple without any further delay is heard everywhere, with the uproarious chanting of "Jai Shri Ram" and "pehle mandir phir sarkar'.
Munir Khan, Shahid Siddiqui, Sajid Khan, Bhagwatiprasad (extreme right) hope that politicos won't disturb the peace.
The atmosphere in Ayodhya remained highly charged on Saturday. The locals were keen to see late Bal Thackeray's son in action and anxious to know what message he would send out to Narendra Modi's government. The security forces were put on a high alert, making the precinct a heavily-guarded citadel.
Lessons from the past
Bhadarsa has been able to recover from the ugly past. In 2012, the town, which is 20 km from the disputed site, has seen a riot during the Durga puja utsav. The wounds of the 1992-93 riots were still fresh then. It has rarely seen communal tension in the past six years, except for small incidents that were blamed on rumours.
Shiv Sena party workers at maha aarti held at Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai on Saturday. Pic/Ashish Raje
The town is dominated politically by Muslims, as they have the maximum number of elected representatives in the 110-year-old nagar palika. The Hindu population is not small, but prefers to live in peace with their Muslim brethren. The seniors from both communities assure no disturbance, come what may, will overcast their town this weekend, or in the first week of December, when the Babri demolition day is observed amid tight security.
'We want peace'
But, do they want the Ram temple? "Yes," locals said, but without any violence. They want the law of the land to prevail, and peace and prosperity for the two communities that have mended their ways despite being so close to the epicentre of the country's socio-political dispute, which remains unsolved after the Babri demolition, 26 years ago. "All of us have suffered a lot," recalled Munir Khan, 57, a tailor from Mumbai.
Security forces were put on high alert on Saturday
He remembers the gory riots in the financial capital, post the Babri demolition. "I have been working in Mumbai for 36 years. How can I forget those three days, when not only my family, but other Hindu families too, suffered greatly? We went without food for three days and were scared to go out. I left Mumbai immediately after the riots and returned only after a year," he said.
Khan, who lives in Malvani, is here on vacation. He said the communal riots affected the society in many ways. "Many people from our town quit jobs in Mumbai and returned home. Any further riots would have a similar impact, when the youth from all communities don't have jobs in UP or elsewhere," he said.
Bhagwatiprasad alias Dayaluji Gupta, who heads the local traders' association, said he is a proud Hindu — he wears a tilak all the time — but doesn't treat Muslims as his enemies. "The people of this town have faith in unity. There have been rumours about tension in Ayodhya, but we always try not to believe in hearsay. We identify trouble-makers and force them to mend their ways," he said, adding that the "dahashat (terror) of communal forces" won't affect their daily lives.
Panchayat member Sajid Khan, who runs a tailoring shop, said the 30,000-odd residents of Bhadarsa have learned from the mistakes of the past. His Hindu colleague in the palika, endorsed his view. "All must follow brotherhood. Here, Hindus and Muslims are treated as equals."
'Let the law prevail'
Another local Ramesh Sahu slammed the erratic forces from both communities. "Faizabad has been renamed Ayodhya and do you know what Ayodhya means? It means a place where no yuddh [war] is held." He said apasi sulah (greater understanding between the communities) is the only solution to resolve the temple issue. "Let the law prevail. Let the Supreme Court decide it."
Shahid Siddiqui, who said he supported the Congress, trusts the administration and police, rather than the political leadership of the state and country. "Sab sahame hue hai (people are scared). Muslims want justice. They want both the Ram temple and masjid. That's the way to end the dispute," he said.
Locals said they would stand in solidarity with the Hindus and Muslims, if they are forced to flee their homes, in case the tension builds up. "There have been instances of people from Ayodhya and Faizabad taking shelter here in Bhadarsa. We will welcome them this time as well," said Munir Khan, recalling once again the Mumbai riots in which Hindus saved Muslims and Muslims too, reciprocated. Meanwhile, the police are trying to find a place to park their trucks on the road that can hardly facilitate movement of wide-bodied vehicles.
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