December no longer sends a chill down the spine and Ayodhya breathes easy in the winter air.
Three decades after the Babri mosque was demolished, there is no apprehension on the eve of the Babri demolition.
The past is firmly behind and the people now look to the future — a future where there is massive development, renovation and revamping.
“For almost 28 years, December brought apprehension, fear and sounds of trouble. The VHP cadres played ‘dhol’ to celebrate ‘Shaurya Diwas’ on December 6 while the Muslims would wear black clothes to observe ‘Yaum-e-Gham’ (day of sorrow). In between para-military forces would stage a flag march and the sound of their boots would remind us that all was not well,” recalled Shyama Charan Tiwari, 82, who had a shop selling religious memorabilia near Hanuman Garhi.
His shop has now been demolished to pave the way for a wider road leading to the Ram temple.
His shop’s demolition has been welcomed by him.
“My son now has no compulsion to continue the family business. He can start another venture if he wants. Till the shop was there, I would ask him to take care of it,” he said.
His son Chirtarth said, “I now have new opportunities because in the next five years, Ayodhya is going to be a very happening place with increased tourist influx. I plan to open a large general store, a small mall, on our ancestral land and this store will also sell religious memorabilia. We will have a restaurant, a cafe and everything that a tourist destination needs.”
“This is the new Ayodhya,” he said.
‘Deepotsav’ – and not December 6 – is the most important date in Ayodhya’s calendar now.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath started Deepotsav in 2017 and has turned it into a mega event in the past six years.
“Tourists are coming to Ayodhya for Deepotsav and this means a lot for the local people. Hotels are coming up for all categories of tourists and once the airport becomes functional, the numbers will go up manifold,” said Vikas Gupta, a local hotelier who is already planning to revamp and expand his budget hotel.
Muslims in Ayodhya have also buried the past and are no longer vocal about their regret for the Babri demolition.
‘We need to forget the past. I was not even born when the demolition took place so, frankly speaking, I have no emotional attachment to the issue. My grandfather would often talk about the demolition but the family no longer talks about it. Ayodhya is looking forward to a new era and we are hopeful that we will also benefit from the development,” said Atif, a young graduate.