NEW DELHI – Security was beefed up on Friday in the north Indian city of Ayodhya ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on a long-standing dispute between Hindus and Muslims over a site held sacred by the religious groups.
Over 4,500 police officers and 16,000 volunteers were deployed in and around the city amid fears of possible communal violence.
The ministry of home affairs has also deployed 45 companies of paramilitary troopers, Senior Superintendent of Police Ashish Tiwari told EFE.
There is an apprehension that the court’s decision about the ownership of the disputed sacred land – expected to be announced on Nov. 17 – could result in violent clashes between the two religious groups.
“More forces will be coming to the district. We are equipped with drones, CCTV, body cameras and wall barriers” for blocking areas of the city, Tiwari said, adding around 200 vehicles would be patrolling the district.
The officer said the volunteers included local community leaders, who were asked to keep the police informed about the ground situation and report “unlawful” and suspicious activities, “including strangers arriving in the area.”
The phone numbers of the police had been painted on around 18,000 places on the city walls so that people could immediately contact the authorities when needed and a quick response could be organized.
“We are looking for social media rumors and alerts. We have a special team for clearing the rumors,” Tiwari said, adding any violation would be dealt as per the law.
The Supreme Court has to decide whether the piece of land could be used to build a temple of the Hindu god Ram – who is claimed to have been born at the site – or it would be returned to the Muslim organizations that managed the 16th century Babri mosque, which stood there until it was destroyed by a violent Hindu mob in 1992.
Decades of legal and social disputes reached a tipping point in December 1992, when the unlawful demolition of the mosque – built by 16th century Mughal Emperor Babar – resulted in violent clashes in which around 2,000 people were killed.
The Indian subcontinent has witnessed some of the worst sectarian violence in the world, especially during the partition of the country along with its independence in 1947.
The current right-wing government has been accused of turning a blind eye towards growing violence and discrimination towards the Muslims, who form around 14.2 percent of the population.