PM calls for calm as India on alert ahead of Ayodhya verdict (Roundup)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NEW DELHI - A day ahead of the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi verdict that will put to test India’s ideal of religious tolerance, India was on alert Wednesday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, among others, appealing for peace and mutual respect.

While the central and state governments stepped up security to ward off any communal trouble following the verdict on the 61-year-old dispute, some said India had moved on since 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindu radicals who believed it was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram.

The demolition of the 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’ town of Ayodhya triggered widespread riots in which at least 2,000 people were killed.

In a passionate appeal, put out as a half-page newspaper advertisement, the prime minister urged people to treat the verdict by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on the land dispute with “utmost respect”.

“We must remember the fact that the judgment, at this stage, is one step in the judicial process. The determination of the issues need not necessarily end with this judgment, unless it is accepted by all parties,” the prime minister said amid apprehensions that the ruling could reopen the volatile communal issue.

The three-judge bench will deliver the verdict at 3.30 p.m. Thursday. But the ruling can be challenged in the Supreme Court if any of the parties is not satisfied with the court decision.

Appealing to all sections of people to maintain “equanimity and tranquility”, Manmohan Singh said if any of the parties to the dispute feels that further judicial consideration is required, “there are legal remedies available, which could be resorted to”.

Congress president and chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Sonia Gandhi asked people to “respect the verdict of the independent judiciary of India”.

“I respectfully request you to have faith in the judicial system and maintain brotherhood at any cost,” Gandhi said in her appeal written in Hindi.

Added Home Minister P. Chidambaram: “India has moved on, especially the people who were born after 1992 have a different world view.”

“I hope peace and communal harmony will be maintained,” he said, disclosing that more 1.90 lakh “policemen from all formations” would be deployed in Uttar Pradesh.

A senior official added that Uttar Pradesh would be the focus of security action, particularly Ayodhya, the location of the dispute, and Lucknow, where the verdict would be delivered.

Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala are some of the states where the judgment could “evoke sharp reaction”, the central government believes.

At a time when the Indian capital is set to host its biggest international sporting event, the Commonwealth Games, beginning Sunday, the home ministry has asked states to strictly enforce security measures in sensitive locations. Administrations have been asked to activate peace committees of Hindus and Muslims.

A special alert has been sounded for cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bhiwandi, Bhopal, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Hyderabad that have a history of communal flare-ups.

Leaders are also sounding caution and appealing for calm irrespective of which side the scales tilt.

The Darul Uloom Deoband, a leading Muslim seminary, has said any reaction to the judgment should be legal.

“The issue has lingered for the last 60 years it is time the matter is sorted out. We pray peace and harmony is maintained. If any party feels dissatisfied we can always approach the Supreme Court,” Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, a teacher of the seminary, told IANS.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) too said peace and order should prevail irrespective of the ruling.

“The temple will be constructed whatever the court decision would be. But we believe in democratic institutions and would appeal to all our activists and volunteers to maintain peace and order after the verdict,” VHP leader Vinod Bansal told IANS.

“We have made peace appeals in the past as well and do so today also… Peace and communal harmony should not be disturbed. We hope that the verdict will be a positive turning point for the Hindu-Muslim unity in India. Indians have matured and have prepared their mind to accept and respect the court verdict,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP told IANS.

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