Elaborate security arrangements have been made across the country ahead of the Supreme Court judgement in the communally sensitive Ayodhya land dispute case on Saturday, while the temple town remained on edge and political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and religious leaders urged people to maintain peace and respect the verdict.
Authorities said social media posts will be monitored to ensure that no attempt is made to vitiate the atmosphere by spreading fake or inflammatory content and necessary arrangements have been made to ensure safety and security of religious places.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Friday morning held an hour-long meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and Director General of Police Om Prakash Singh who apprised him about the security arrangements made to maintain law and order in the state.
Uttar Pradesh government announced closure of all educational and training institutes till Monday after the Supreme Court website posted around 9 pm that the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi will pronounce its verdict in the case at 10.30 am on Saturday, a non-working day for courts.
Late Friday night, Prime Minister Modi said the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya will not be matter of victory or loss for anyone.
"I appeal to countrymen that it should be our priority to strengthen our tradition of maintaining peace and harmony after Ayodhya verdict. In the run up to
Ayodhya verdict, efforts have been made by various people and organisations to maintain harmonious atmosphere. We have to maintain amity even after Ayodhya verdict," Modi said.
The demolition of the Babri masjid at the disputed site on December 6, 1992, had sparked communal riots in the country and the administration has been on its toes ahead of the verdict.
Multi-layered security arrangements have been put in place in the temple town of Ayodhya, which has been turned into a fortress with deployment of 60 companies (90-125 personnel each) of the PAC and paramilitary forces. Drones and CCTV cameras were also being used to monitor the situation.
Be it the area near the Ramjanmabhoomi police station, "karyashala" of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas or other parts of the town, policemen were diligently checking all vehicles.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath reviewed the law and order situation in each district and appealed for peace.
Similar review meetings were held in other states following a general advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, asking them to deploy adequate security personnel at all sensitive places.
Delhi Police has beefed up security across the national capital and stepped up patrolling in sensitive areas in the city, officials said, adding social media platforms will also be monitored, police said.
Delhi Police will also initiate strict legal action against those found indulging in any activity which may adversely affect the peace and tranquillity of the society, a senior police officer said here.
Social media posts and WhatsApp messages that incite communal hatred or violence would draw severe punishment, including jail term, for offenders, the Gautam Buddh Nagar administration said on Friday.
The offenders would not only be arrested but action against them would be taken under the Gangsters Act and the National Security Act (NSA), District Magistrate B N Singh said in an official statement.
The Noida Police also carried out a flag march in mixed population areas and densely crowded locations.
On Wednesday, the prime minister had asked his ministers and party leaders to refrain from making unnecessary statements on the Ayodhya issue and maintain harmony in the country, according to sources.
Clerics and priests of various faiths also renewed their appeal to people to honour the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute and respect religious sentiments.
"We should all respect the judgment. We should exercise restraint and not hurt religious sentiments of any community," Imam of the Lucknow Eidgah Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali told PTI.
He said an all-religious meeting was recently organised at the Islamic Centre here to discuss several aspects before the judgement.
"The Ayodhya case is the biggest and most sensitive case of independent India. Hence, it is the responsibility of every citizen to honour the verdict and maintain peace," Mahali said.
He appealed to all clerics to tell Muslims "not to feel afraid and repose their faith in the Constitution and the judiciary".
Spokesperson of the All India Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yasoob Abbas said, "Every person irrespective of any religion must honour and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court."
Priest at the Dakshinmukhi Hanuman Mandir in Hazratganj, Sarvesh Shukla, said, "My only appeal to the people is to honour and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case."
Father Donald De Souza, Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Lucknow told PTI, "Ours is a functional democracy, and rule of law has to be followed by all. The court's judgement has to be fully respected by everyone without any bias. This is called 'sanskaar'."
Meanwhile, UP Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) PV Ramasastry told PTI that adequate forces have been provided to Ayodhya and all sensitive districts of the state in good measure.
"Stress has been laid on confidence-building measures," he said, adding that police had undertaken patrolling and different sections of society, be it the dharma gurus, traders or academics had been contacted.
"The basic aim of the outreach is to instil a feeling of security," he said.
ADG (Prosecution) Ashutosh Pandey said barricading had been strengthened at the place of the makeshift temple.
The entire town had been divided into 31 sectors and 35 sub-sectors, he said, adding that in case there was a surge of visitors, a "holding area" had been carved on the outskirts of the town so that people could be sent in batches for the darshan of Lord Ram.
Pandey said there was no ban on devotees coming to Ayodhya.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier said two helicopters would be on standby in Lucknow and Ayodhya as part of the security arrangements.
Adityanath also warned that strict action will be taken against anyone trying to disturb the law and order.
The Centre had rushed around 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Uttar Pradesh while the Railway police cancelled leave of its force and stepped up vigil at 78 major stations and on trains as part of its security preparedness.
As part of goodwill measures, meetings were being held by police with members of Hindu and Muslim ommunities prior to the verdict with an appeal to them to maintain calm.
A cross-section of people in Ayodhya said that they want to move on now and leave the past behind.
Among them is Rajesh Kumar, a small-time farmer who has spent most of his life amid the uncertainty that followed the Babri Masjid demolition
Shiv Sakal, who lives near Badhi Devkali bypass in Ayodhya, said, "I sincerely pray to Lord Ram that this dispute be resolved at earliest, so that the element of uncertainty is gone from our minds once and for all.
"Many of my relatives who live in Bundelkhand are sceptical of coming to Ayodhya and say that they will come here only after the Supreme Court judgement is delivered," he said.
The apex court had on August 6 commenced day-to-day proceedings in the case as the mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
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