The streets of Ayodhya are filled with right-wing activists who have poured in from various parts of the county for a VHP grand event Sunday to push for construction of a Ram Temple, even as security has been heightened in the temple town to maintain law and order.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad's 'Dharma Sabha' is being touted as the largest congregation of 'Ram bhakts' in Ayodhya since the 1992 'kar seva', with the Hindu outfit claiming a large number of people will attend it.
The congregation is happening less than two weeks ahead of the 26th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque, that had triggered unrest in this pilgrim town and riots in other parts of India. The spectre of 1992 still haunts many people of both the communities who had directly or indirectly suffered in the violence that had erupted after the Mughal-era mosque was razed by a frenzied army of 'kar sewaks' (right-wing activists) on the fateful day of December 6.
The VHP has claimed that three lakh people, including seers, will attend its 'Dharma Sabha' to be held at Bade Bhakt Mal Ki Baghia, not far from the controversial Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas-run workshop, where work for building a temple has been underway since 1990.
An uneasy calm prevailed in Muslim-dominated areas like Dharam Kanta, and the mega event has triggered some apprehension over the safety of the town's Muslim community. Meanwhile, a senior police official said security has been stepped up in Ayodhya, in view of the VHP event and the presence of a large number of Shiv Sainiks in town.
"We are prepared to meet all challenges, all arrangements are in place in the town, the district and its border area to avoid any untoward incident. We are keeping a tight vigil and security around Ram Janmabhoomi site has also been stepped up," the senior official told PTI.
Chants of 'Jai Shri Ram' rent the air in the streets and around Saryu River, where the Yogi Adityanath government has also planned to install a 151-m statue of Lord Ram.
Mahant Dharamdas, a prominent seer in Ayodhya said: "The Supreme Court should heed to the sentiments of these people who have arrived in Ayodhya today, with a pious belief that a Ram temple will be built soon."
Security was also beefed up at Lakshman Qila on Saturday where Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was welcomed after his arrival in Ayodhya.
The Sena claimed to have brought several thousand supporters to Ayodhya for Thackeray's events. Arriving here ahead of Sunday's VHP rally for a Ram temple, Thackeray asked the Narendra Modi government to wake up from a "Kumbhakarna-like slumber" and declare the date for its construction.
"There is no political motive behind my visit to Ayodhya," he claimed.
The Sena chief was greeted with slogans of "Jai Shri Ram" when he arrived in Ayodhya with his wife Rashmi and son Aditya. Mahant Nrityagopal Das, the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, was among those who welcomed Thackeray at Lakshman Qila, where the Sena leader made the remarks.
A drone monitored the event.
The streets of Ayodhya are awash with saffron colour as flag-bearing activists camped at 'akharas' moved around in various parts of the city, and held an informal gathering.
But, many in Ayodhya are miffed over these events, which seek to whip up communal frenzy.
Aman Kumar, a stone craftsman, when asked about the current situation surrounding the controversial temple issue, said: "People of Ayodhya, of all communities, have always lived in peace. It is outsiders and politicians with agenda, who come to our town and vitiate the atmosphere."