Those staying back are stocking up on essentials to keep them going in the event of a total shutdown once the verdict is out.
Ayodhya: Till a week ago, celebrations in this two-bedroom house in Rikabgunj were going on in full swing. The marriage of a daughter of bank employee Kailash Chandra Gupta was due on November 14. Invitation cards had been distributed, and all arrangements were in place even though the fallout of the Ayodhya title suit verdict was something that was bothering everyone in the family.
After many discussions with relatives over the past two days — which were based on the massive troop buildup and the tense situation, Kailash Gupta called up the father of his would-be son-in-law and the two men decided to postpone the marriage indefinitely.
In the house adjacent to Mr Gupta’s, the family of Muhammed Ashfaq, a trader, has stocked up on enough rations, gas cylinders, medicines and other essentials to last three months. What if there is a lockdown like in Kashmir, wonders Mr Ashfaq.
With tension building up in the town ahead of the Supreme Court verdict, a sense of fear prevails among residents of the twin towns of Faizabad and Ayodhya. Talk to anyone on the streets and they are quick to point out the unprecedented lockdown in the Kashmir Valley since August 5 when Article 370 was scrapped. They anticipate that the same could happen here as well.
Marriages — in hundreds, say locals — have been postponed while many people have temporarily left Ayodhya and are choosing to stay away till the situation normalises. Those staying back are stocking up on essentials to keep them going in the event of a total shutdown once the verdict is out.
Though on record, police officials insist all is well, they admit privately that a complete lockdown is part of their contingency plan in the event of disturbances in the aftermath of the historic verdict.
“The district administration assures us there will not be a shutdown and everything will remain open and normal. But if we look at what happened in Kashmir when suddenly the entire place was locked down, then anything can happen here as well,” says Muhammad Ashfaq.
Making matters worse are the soaring prices of vegetables in Faizabad and Ayodhya due to the frantic buying by locals. “Most people are buying items like rice, dal and flour in bulk. The demand is such that we have been asking our dealers to rush additional stock. This is not normal,” says Kailash Agrawal, who runs a grocery store at Faizabad Chowk.
This being the wedding season, only families of the bride and groom place bulk orders, “but over the last one week, there has been a mad rush. Most of our customers have made purchases that would easily last for two months,” Mr Agrawal says.
Normally between November and mid-December, the twin towns see an average of nearly 1,000 weddings. But now, hundreds have been cancelled or postponed, most of them indefinitely.
“What will we do if the situation worsens around the time of my daughter’s marriage? Instead of suffering then, we thought it is better to call off the wedding for now,” Mr Gupta says.
He adds that the cost of vegetables and other food items has gone up considerably, making a wedding an even more costly affair. “For example, today a kilo of onions costs Rs 80 here while it is Rs 35 in Gorakhpur (that is 100-odd km away), says Abhay, one of his relatives.
Another Muslim family residing at Sahabgunj on the Faizabad-Ayodhya road too has called off a wedding due for November 15. “Most of our relatives said they would stay indoors due to the tense atmosphere. My son also suggested we postpone it as we don’t know what is going to come (after the verdict),” said Muhammad Tauseef.
Even the priests who perform the marriages are badly hit as this was their season to make money. Fear of repercussions, whichever way the verdict goes, has impelled some residents to leave town temporarily.
“Our neighbours have relatives in Delhi and they left three days ago. They told us they will get in touch with us to find out about the situation before coming back,” said Ramavtar Tiwari who lives in civil lines.