Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), Dec 6: From heated arguments and the mob frenzy of Dec 6, 1992, to animated discussions on foreign investment in retail trade, Ayodhya seems to have come a long way since the Babri mosque was razed, triggering riots across the country.
Twenty years on, most residents of Ayodhya, 135 km from the state capital Lucknow, say the Ram temple movement does not excite them any more. They candidly admit that bread and butter issues have “superseded all other urges”.
After the demolition of the 16th century mosque, brought down by radical Hindus who believed it was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram, a makeshift Ram temple has come up at the site.
Anmol, a tea shop owner along the Saryu river, says: “The frenzy, even the zeal (for a Ram temple), ebbed long back.”
“Ab to rozi roti ki maraamari hai” (Now we are all caught in the bread and butter battle), the 47-year-old says, recalling the days when the “kar sewaks” were all over the town.
“Things have changed now,” he says, adding that those who led the movement to build a temple at the Babri mosque site appear to have forgotten the agenda after “making it big in politics”.
As for parties other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), they never bothered about a Ram temple and only pandered to “minority votes”, alleges Ram Khilawan, seated at the tea stall.
“No one is concerned about Lord Ram, all that politicians want is vote,” he says in a matter of fact tone.
Ayodhya’s discourse has changed, says Lala B.D. Gupta, who lives near the Kanchan Bhawan on Rinmochan Ghat.
“Most people have come to terms with the fact that a temple on the disputed land is a long way.”
Gupta added that everyone now wants the town to develop, they want the Uttar Pradesh government to create more jobs, and spruce up law and order.
Business management student Naveen Tripathi cannot even think of a Dec 6 happening now.
“I have heard of the episode and seen the clips on video but a repeat of this in modern day India is not going to happen.”
The modern day Indian youth is far more “mature, large hearted” than the past generation, Tripathi says. “We don’t have time for all this, time wastage is money wastage.”
Shahabuddin Khan, president of the Sunni Board of India, is for reconciliation on the temple-mosque row.
But former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh says the issue of a grand Ram temple at the former site of the Babri mosque was a “purely emotive” one that has to be settled between Hindus and Muslims.
P.N. Mishra, lawyer for the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Punaruddhar Samiti, is hopeful. “The delay by the Supreme Court in hearing the important case is because all case records are yet to reach it.”
Lawyer Zafaryab Jilani, while admitting that memories of 1992 still send shivers down his spine, is happy that a majority of Indians have denounced the mosque destruction.
Supporters of Ram temple agree the campaign has lost the vigour.
Most of those in the temple movement in the 1990s have died, says a VHP leader, referring to people like Deoraha Baba, B.P. Singhal, Ram Phal, Nana Bhagwat, Mahesh Narayan Singh, Bal Thackeray and Onkar Bhave.
Those alive from both sides, he says, are too feeble and old to carry on the battle.
Whatever the change in Ayodhya’s mindset, security forces remain on high alert, Additional Director General of Police Arun Kumar told IANS.
Mahant Bhaskar Das of the Nirmohi Akahada, the main petitioner favouring a temple, says they are waiting for the apex court hearing to begin.
“Only God knows how long will it take to come to a final verdict,” he says.
But Hashim Ansari, who is contesting the case from the Muslim side, is tired of the court proceedings that have dragged on for years. He says he has now left it to the will of Allah.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)