A few Muslim families have left Ayodhya amid two big events organised by the Shiv Sena and right wing organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Uttar Pradesh town. Muslim residents in Ayodhya said the families will return in a day or two after the events are over.
“Many of my Muslim neighbours, who were here till a few days ago, have now left, either to their relatives’ places or temporarily shifted elsewhere out of Ayodhya,” said Nisha, a local resident, pointing to a locked house at her neighbourhood in the heart of Ayodhya.
At Saidwada and Begumpura, the residents said those who have not left town feel a sense of unease on seeing hundreds of people arrive at Ayodhya to attend events themed on the temple-mosque dispute.
Manzar Mehdi, a local historian, said that “with many leaders making provocative statements, they do not want to leave things to fate, and thus moved out due to safety reasons.”
“In Faizabad town, some families have left altogether, while in many cases, women and children have been shifted to their relatives’ homes in nearby districts,” Mr Mehdi said.
In 1992, the 16th-century Babri Masjid was destroyed by lakhs of right wing volunteers or karsewaks.
“The charged atmosphere in Ayodhya is reminding me of the painful memories of the tragedy and the violence that ensued,” said Mohammed Azim, a 46-year-old auto-rickshaw driver in Ayodhya. “People from both communities are still trying to have an atmosphere of peace. But then outsiders come to our town and vitiate the atmosphere. So many have decided to move out temporarily,” Mr Azim said.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was in Ayodhya to offer prayers to the Ram Lalla. The VHP also held programmes to discuss the way forward for construction of the Ram temple.
The police said thousands of security personnel, supported by drones, are keeping watch on the town. “We are prepared to meet all challenges… We are keeping a tight vigil and security around Ram Janmabhoomi site has also been stepped up,” a senior police officer said.