The 17th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid largely remained a non-event in Ayodhya, in spite of the various programmes organised by political parties to mark the occasion.
While the Vishwa Hindu Parishad observed it as 'Shaurya Diwas' (Valour Day) and the Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Samajwadi Party observed it as 'Black Day', the events held by them witnessed negligible participation by the locals.
The day started with celebrations held by a small group of saffron-clad sadhus inside the precincts of the karsewakpuram -- a camp run by the VHP.
The programme was led by former Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Ram Vilas Vedanti, himself a saffron-clad saint, who has been associated with the Ayodhya movement for decades.
Accompanying him was Mahant Nrtiya Gopal Das, who heads the Ramjanmbhoomi Trust. The trust has been given the task of building the much-debated Ram temple, on the debris of the 16th century Mughal mosque, where a makeshift temple has been erected since the mosque was razed by angry karsevaks on December 6, 1992.
The few saffron-clad sadhus attending the event chanted VHP's popular slogan -- "Ram Lalla Hum aye hain; Mandir wahin banayenge" (Lord Ram, we have arrived and we will build a temple here) -- and loudly reiterated their resolve to build a 'grand Ram temple' in place of the makeshift one.
Haj Mehboob, one of the key litigants in the court battle to gain the right over the dispute Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site, held a protest meeting outside his Ayodhya residence. Several BMAC activists, wearing black ribbons as a mark of protest, attended the event. Shops and commercial establishments owned by Muslims kept their shutters down.
Incidentally, Bajrang Dal founder and former local MP Vinay Katiyar, who had also served as the state BJP president for sometime, decided to keep away from the VHP show. Instead, he decided to observe the day as 'Sachchai Diwas' (Day of the Truth) at his own residence.
Faizabad senior superintendent of police RKS Rathore described the day as 'absolutely peaceful'. Rathore, who remained within the precincts of the disputed site for most of the day, told rediff.com, "We have sufficient security force and there has been no untoward incident in any part of the district."
He added, "Demonstrations by different organisations were held at the private estates of the respective groups as no congregation of people was allowed in any public place."
However, the heavy security arrangements failed to deter the devotees, who had turned up to offer their pujas at the makeshift temple.