A day before the Dharam Sabha called by the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Ayodhya was virtually turned into fortress with multiple layers of security and deployment of drones.
When contacted, Ayodhya mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay told PTI that adequate security arrangements were made by the police and district administration in the town, located 120 km from state capital, Lucknow.
"As many as 13 parking slots have been provided for the event. No permission was given to the Shiv Sena by the government to hold a rally," the mayor said.
Despite a slight chill in the air, the temple town seems to be reeling under the political heat generated by the 'Dharam Sabha', being held to call for the construction of a grand temple for Lord Ram here.
A pamphlet recently released by the VHP raises the pitch for its construction. It read, ”Saugandh Ram ki khaate hai, hum mandir bhavya banayenge (We pledge in the name of Lord Ram that we will build a grand temple for him)", urging devotees to be a part of the movement.
Meanwhile, the organisers of the Dharam Sabha claimed the more than 3 lakh devotees of Lord Ram were likely to arrive for the programme this Sunday.
VHP media in-charge Ambuj Ojha said, "After staying in a taat (tent), Lord Ram is expecting a revival of bravado among his devotees. The moment has come.
The temple must be built where Ram Lalla is currently seated. Also, there should not be any mosque in the cultural boundary of Ayodhya."
Arriving ahead of VHP's rally, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had taunted Narendra Modi government to wake up from a Kumbhakarna-like slumber and declare the date for its construction.
He urged the government to bring legislation or an ordinance for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, saying his party will support it.
Day, months, years and generations have passed, he said Saturday on what he described as his first visit to the town.
Mandir wahin baneyange, par date nahin batayenge [You say you will make the temple there, but won't tell the date], he said. First say when you will construct the temple, the rest we will talk later, he said.
Muslims in Ayodhya are "terrified" ahead of the Dharam Sabha, Zafaryab Jilani, a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said on Saturday.
He alleged that the public meeting was part of the political strategy of the BJP and the RSS to keep the Ram temple issue alive in the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"The Muslims living in Ayodhya are terrified since about the past week...we have also asked those feeling insecure to come to Lucknow if they want," Jilani told PTI.
Ahead of the general elections, the clamour for a Ram temple at Ayodhya has hit a peak. The Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti convention, held recently, had echoed the RSS demands when it claimed that the government should take initiative to ensure that the temple construction commenced by December.
Former BJP MP and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas member Ram Vilas Vedanti said, according to The Indian Express, “I pray to Ramlalla in Ayodhya to give sadbuddhi(wisdom) to all and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi so that construction of a grand temple of Ramlalla could be started in December.”
The Hindu seers also said a mosque could be built in Lucknow, and that they did not want to see any bloodshed in the country.
Vijay Goel became the first Union Minister to call for an expedited legislative route for the construction of Ram temple, when he said, on Friday, that it should be done at the earliest through any means—constitutional, legislative, judicial or community dialogue.
He claimed that the building of the temple is a "matter of faith" for "crores of people" and ways should be found to "amicably resolve" the issue to pave the way for its construction.
A campaign, Ek Diya, Ram ke Naam, launched on Saturday, sought to promote the bid for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya.