Are Muslims of Ayodhya feeling alienated after temple opening?

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 28-02-2024
Ayodhya airport building
Ayodhya airport building


Saquib Salim

Last week’s Ayodhya visit was different from my earlier ones. The Ramjanmbhoomi Temple was under construction when I visited the city some 13 months ago. The airport was being planned and the train was the only feasible mode of transportation from Delhi. 

The temple that has come up at the site of Babri Masjid following a Supreme Court ruling has been the topic of debates on and off screen for years. After its grandiose inauguration with the Pran Pratishta ceremony on 22 January 2024, the far right and the left leaders claimed the event had alienated the Muslim community.

Ayodhya is the hometown of my wife and her family continues to live there. The family suffered huge losses in the 1992 communal riots. The mobs vandalized their properties; several male members faced mob attacks and also the police action. All her four elder brothers are practicing Muslims who have jewelry shops in the city. 

Based on the opinions I read in the newspapers and on the news portals, I should presume that my in-law's family disliked, if not hated, the construction of the temple and the developments around it. The reality was just the opposite. The people I know in the city mostly welcomed the inauguration of the temple and the developments it ushered in.

Burqa-clad women and their families headed for a board ride in Saryu river of Ayodhya

My wife, and many of her relatives, shared WhatsApp statuses expressing joy when the airport at Ayodhya was inaugurated. Family WhatsApp groups were full of excitement as everyone expressed how they could directly fly to their hometown from Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangaluru.

A few weeks later, my wife and I took a flight to Ayodhya from Delhi. A few ‘well-wishers’ cautioned me against taking a flight to Ayodhya. They claimed often the passengers on these flights are often full of politically-motivated and hate-spewing travellers. Similar claims on social media gave further credence to this theory.

The temple at I boarded a SpiceJet flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. My eyes searched for those political activists but to no avail. Nothing was unusual on the flight. I didn’t hear any slogans that people had warned me of. Inside the flight, it looked like a mini-India with most men and women wearing Western outfits, while some women wore traditional sarees or Salvar-kameez. Just a few -I think less than 10 persons – were clad in dhoti-kurta, a couple of bearded Muslims with Burqa women.

 Boats to ferry people for a ride in Saryu River

The ambiance at the Ayodhya airport was normal; it looked just like any other airport in India. 

In less than a couple of hours at home, my Mother-in-law, a pious Muslim woman who dons a Burqa, proposed that we should visit Ayodhya to witness the decoration, development, and grandeur of the recently erected edifices. I was shocked. I must admit that as I live in Delhi, my mind is not impervious to political opinions flying thick and fast in and on the media. I least envisioned that the Muslims of Ayodhya would be excited about the recent developments.

In the evening boarded an SUV to Ayodhya. Before our car entered the city, my co-passengers had excitedly explained to me all that I had come to see. 

Yet I was not ready to accept that our Delhi-based political commentators are so wide off the mark from reality. I thought that my in-laws could be an exception to the rule. The media had been telling me that Muslims of Ayodhya had been feeling alienated. 

The next day, I went to Guptar Ghat at the Saryu River. Situated at Chaudah Kosi Parikrama Marg, Guptar Ghat is holy for Hindus.

People visiting the temple at Guptar Ghat

It was evening. The atmosphere was echoing with Bhajans from the stage set on Ghat by the Ministry of Culture for Ramotsav; the sound of Aarti from a distant temple filled the air. For Delhi-based intellectuals, everything there was Hindu so Muslims should feel ‘alienated’. 

As I entered the Ghat and looked towards the river where people were enjoying boating, the first sight was of two burqa-clad women with two bearded men boarding a boat. I immediately clicked a photograph with my mobile camera thinking that this was extraordinary stuff and should be recorded. It took me a few minutes to notice several Burqa-clad women with their families enjoying themselves. Apart from these identifiable Muslims, many others with clean-shaven faces and wearing regular shirts and trousers were also around. 

ALSO READGanga-Jamuni culture is alive and thriving in Ayodhya

There was the sound of Aarti, and the singing of Bhajan, and Muslims were enjoying the environment.

I had to de-junk my mind to realize that the people of Ayodhya practiced what Jigar Moradabadi wrote decades ago, “Politicians know about their creed, My message is of love so wherever it can go.”