Right wing organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad's plan to hold a mammoth rally in Ayodhya has left the city's Muslim residents deeply concerned. The rally will coincide with one held in the city by the Shiv Sena. While the government indicated that it sees no harm in a rally, the chief petitioner in the Ayodhya title suit has said he is ready to leave the town.
The VHP's "dharma sabha" is scheduled to be held on November 25. Its leaders told the media last week that they want to get lakhs of people -- 'Ram Bhakts' -- into Ayodhya to discuss the way forward for the temple construction.
The hearing on the title suit in Ayodhya has been pushed back by the Supreme Court, which is expected to name a date for the hearing in January. But pending a decision, there have been calls to bypass the court and fast forward the construction through an ordinance, or executive order by the government.
The BJP, which has promised its supporters a temple, is hoping for a decision before the national election next year.
Its ally Shiv Sena, too, has upped the temple demand ahead of next year's elections. Its rally in Ayodhya the same day will be addressed by party chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Muslim residents in Ayodhya -- including litigants in the title suit -- say they are worried.
"Our houses were burnt down in 1992 (during the demolition of the Babri masjid)," said Iqbal Ansari, one of the main litigants in the Ayodhya land dispute case. "If a crowd pours in here, like in 1992, the Muslims of Ayodhya and I should be given protection. If my security is not heightened, I'll leave for somewhere else before November 25," he added.
Mr Ansari, who already gets police protection, said he has asked for extra security for the residents of the city - both Hindus and Muslims.
The UP government has said it will make arrangements to ensure there is no breach of peace. Deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya has also told news agency ANI that he saw nothing wrong with the VHP programme.
"The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been holding movements for the construction of Ram Mandir on Ram Janmabhoomi for many years. If they are unifying the devotees, we don't have any objections to it," Mr Maurya said.
On Diwali, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that Faizabad district, which comprises the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad on the banks of the river Saryu, will be known as Ayodhya. There are also plans to build a Ram statue that will be Ayodhya's signature tourist site.
"I want to make sure that Lord Ram's legacy lives forever," the priest-politician had said.
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