LUCKNOW The Uttar Pradesh police conducted mock drills, flag marches and drone camera surveillance in several districts, including Ayodhya, on Thursday as the administration beefed up security ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute.
The state government appointed an additional director general-rank officer, Ashutosh Pandey, as incharge of security arrangements as the Centre rushed 4,000 paramilitary personnel and the Union home ministry asked all states, in particular Uttar Pradesh, to ramp up security.
The state government has also identified several schools in various districts to set up temporary jails if the need arose. Many schools may also be used to accommodate security personnel.
The immediate challenge before the administration is the Hindu religious event of Kartik Purnima, when at least one million people are expected to assemble in Ayodhya on November 12. “The increasing number of devotees for Kartik Purnima (November 12) and the huge crowd during Panch Kosi Parikrama (on Thursday) is our biggest challenge. We are focusing on crowd management,” said Pandey.
The verdict will be delivered before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who is heading the five-judge Constitution bench, retires on November 17. The bench is considering petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad high court judgment that trifurcated the 2.77 acre disputed land between the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu denomination, the Sunni Central Waqf Board and representatives of Ram Lalla, the child deity. Arguments in the case ended on October 16 after 40 days of hearing.
On Thursday, Ayodhya district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha held a meeting with opposition parties and urged them to assist the police and administration in maintaining law and order. “We have made all arrangements to deal with any kind of situation. As far as arranging temporary jails and other activities, these are parts of standard operating procedures. Hopefully, we shall not require them,” Jha said.
Ayodhya police have launched a mobile application, linking 16,000 volunteers who will keep an eye on the situation in their respective villages. From November 9, an emergency operation centre will be set up in Lucknow that will deal with any kind of communication failure and keep an eye on all sensitive districts through drone cameras, said a senior police official.
The police formed a dedicated cell on Thursday to counter the spread of hate messages on various social media platforms. “We have formed the District Cyber Crime Cell that comprises two units namely, Cyber Crime Investigation Team(CCIT) and Cyber Crime support team, to prevent cyber crime and (take) immediate action against the perpetrators,” said senior superintendent of police, Lucknow, Kalanidhi Naithani.
Ahead of the verdict, saints, clerics and other religious preachers have come together to issue an appeal for peace and harmony. “It’s a tough time, hence we have all come together to send a strong message across community lines,” said Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, who headed the conference.
Security has also been bolstered along railway tracks and the railway police on Thursday issued a seven-page advisory to all its zones giving them a slew of instructions on security preparedness. The Railway Protection Force advisory said that a close watch should be kept on all religious structures near railway stations. It identified around 80 major stations for additional force deployment.