Maharaj-ji, in his late 50s, commands rapt attention as he explains minute details of the clashes that broke out in 2012.
Ayodhya: Mahant Ramdas, a respected religious figure in Ayodhya, is seated late evening with a roomful of followers at his ashram in Hanuman Garhi Chowk, a communally sensitive area.
Maharaj-ji, in his late 50s, commands rapt attention as he explains minute details of the clashes that broke out in 2012. The district administration had then asked him to mediate between Hindus and Muslims, after the damage was done. “Only I know how I prevailed upon them not to escalate matters,” he says, giving details that can’t be printed. Not far from here, Maulana Aamir Rashadi Madni, a popular leader, insists that Islam does not allow the construction of a masjid over a demolished temple.
Like Mahant Ramdas, “Madni saab” has tales to tell — of how the demolition of Babri Masjid is an emotional issue for every Indian Muslim and how they will lose faith in the Supreme Court if the judgment is not in their favour.
With 700-odd temples and over 500 mosques across Ayodhya and Faizabad, the fallout of the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit rests heavily on religious leaders, most of whom are keeping everyone on tenterhooks. On one hand they have appealed for peace through mainstream and social media, but on the other hand they are unwittingly or otherwise doing the damage.
“Babri Masjid will always be an emotional issue for Muslims of all generations,” says Madni. “On (December 6, 1992) the trust of Muslims was broken.”
His supporters across the state agree that the apex court’s verdict will be respected, but if it goes against Muslims, they will lose faith.
“The entire community is waiting to see how honest and unbiased the Supreme Court will be,” he says, adding that if the court relies on evidence alone, the verdict will favour the claim of Muslims.
Despite the tales of December 6, 1992, and other communal clashes circulating, the sense one gets is that a section of religious leaders are emboldened by the ruling dispensation.
During the 2012 clashes, all top Hindu religious leaders were in touch with the BJP, while the Muslim leaders were in touch with the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and even the Bahujan Samaj Party. All tried to keep their voter bases intact in Ayodhya that has a total population of 30 lakh, of whom 30 per cent are Muslims.
Another temple priest on the Faizabad-Ayodhya road, Ram Sharan Das, claims that not only Hindus but even Muslims have concluded that a temple should be constructed on the disputed site. How did he know what the other side was thinking? “All TV channels say so,” he said.
For peace, the district administration is relying on two things: Mood of religious leaders, and luck. So it is going all out to woo the leaders.