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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 19:17 GMT
Ayodhya locals want peace
Muslims carry black balloons as part of a silent protest in Bombay
Black day for Muslims

In the end, the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Babri mosque passed off without incident in the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad.

Black cloth marks the sorrow in the hearts of the Muslim community at the loss of the Babri mosque

Muslim Akram Khan
There had been fears of possible trouble from extremist groups.

Despite the high alert and fears of attacks, the authorities did not restrict the movement of people.

Main roads were not deserted, and, as expected, locals could move around freely without the need for special passes.

It was the ordinary people who defied the fears and concerns of the authorities to prove that peace was a possibility.

Prayers

Although local Muslims postponed Eid for Saturday, saying the moon had not been sighted, they came out in large numbers to offer Friday prayers at several mosques in Ayodhya.

Police guard Moti Masjid in Bhopal
The imams made special mention of the Babri mosque, which was replaced by a makeshift temple exactly 10 years ago, and prayed for its restoration.

One mosque in the district of Beni Ganj, on the main road between Faizabad and Ayodhya, had a black flag and black cloth covering its minarets.

Local Muslim Akram Khan explained: "Black cloth marks the sorrow in the hearts of the Muslim community at the loss of the Babri mosque."

Hindu zealots also attacked his mosque after they had torn down the Babri mosque, and some Muslims who offered resistance lost their lives.

Every year, Muslims mark the date, often risking arrest.

Legal battles

But this year, their anger has been held back.

Muslims are less single-minded about offering prayers at the disputed site and are, instead, committed to legal battles in the courts.

Local Hindus and Muslims have excellent relations - trouble only comes when outsiders arrive

Hindu shopkeeper
Senior Muslim leader Hazi Margoob said: "Both sides have taken a step back in the past 10 years. Now everybody wants it to be resolved in a peaceful manner."

Hazi Margoob lives in Tedhi Bazar, which is situated just behind the disputed site, and he watched helplessly from his rooftop as the mosque was demolished in 1992.

Some Hindus have renewed their pledge to build a grand temple on the site, but celebrations inside the headquarters of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were a low-key affair.

Only about 200 people were present - mostly villagers from surrounding districts who had come as pilgrims.

Gujarat elections

One VHP leader, Onkar Bhave, said they had not called for outsiders to come to Ayodhya this year.

The low turnout may also be a result of the VHP concentrating its efforts on imminent elections in the western state of Gujarat.

They are hoping to secure the return to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party state chief minister Narendra Modi.

The VHP leaders are unhappy with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy, LK Advani, who have distanced themselves from the temple issue.

They now see Narendra Modi as the emerging Hindu nationalist leader.

Some analysts say participation was low because several local Hindu leaders have deserted the VHP to form their own committees for temple construction.

Local Hindu shopkeepers say they also want peace as their business is adversely affected with reports of tension in Ayodhya.

One shopkeeper explained the secret of the remarkable peace in Ayodhya.

He said: "Local Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya and Faizabad have excellent relations. The trouble only comes when outsiders arrive."

Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

Background

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06 Dec 02 | South Asia
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