'Will be very happy if a Ram temple is built but it should not happen at the cost of communal harmony'
'I am more concerned about my future, my family's future. The fate of the Ram temple is neither going to affect my career, nor would I let it be affected'
Notwithstanding a growing chorus for early construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya ahead of next year's general elections, many youth in the holy city say they don't want to be drawn into the "political melee" while asserting that their future "won't hinge" on the fate of the proposed temple.
Another section of youth, however, are anxious to have the temple constructed but "not at the cost of communal harmony".
Aman Kumar, a stone craftsman in his late 30s who runs a statuary shop named Shri Ram Murti in the heart of the city, says, "Ayodhya is the land of Lord Ram. I was born here and more than three generations of my family have been living here. We are a family of Ram worshippers, and it pains us to see Ram Lalla inside a tent."
A precious idol of Ram Lalla (child avatar of Lord Ram), along with those of Laxman, Bharat and Shatrughan, is currently kept inside the tent at the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, which many Hindus believe to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Kumar, when asked about the current frenzy surrounding the controversial temple issue, says, "People of Ayodhya, of all communities, have always lived in peace. It is outsiders and politicians with agenda, who come to our town and vitiate the atmosphere."
"I will be very happy if a Ram temple is built but it should not happen at the cost of communal harmony. Ayodhya has already suffered in 1992," he said.
On December 6, 1992, an army of kar sevaks (right-wing activists), drawn from various parts of the country converged in Ayodhya and razed the 16th century Babri Mosque, triggering unrest in the temple town and large-scale riots in other parts of India.
The spectre of 1992 still haunts many people of both the communities, who had directly or indirectly suffered in the violence that erupted after the demolition of the mosque.
Meanwhile, senior police officials say, security has been stepped up in Ayodhya, in view of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Dharma Sabha, being touted as the largest congregation of Ram bhakts in Ayodhya since the 1992 kar seva.
Rohit Pandey, 18, a tour guide, who speaks multiple Indian languages, and wears a prominent tilak on his forehead, comfortably pallies with Mohammad Azim, a 46-year-old auto-driver in the city, who bore the brunt of the 1992 tragedy.
"We affectionately call him Mamu (uncle). He brings the tourists here and I then take them to Ramjanmabhoomi and other sightseeing places. Hindu and Muslims do not have problem here. I also want a Ram Mandir but the peaceful atmosphere should not be disturbed," he says.
Azim says Rohit is almost of the same age as one of his four sons and "youth like him want to focus on building their future, but are misguided by politicians. My sons want to focus on their career, not this issue, which anyway is in court."
Vikas Dwivedi, 18, an Ayodhya native, currently pursuing engineering at Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, says, "I am more concerned about my future, my family's future. The fate of the Ram temple is neither going to affect my career, nor would I let it be affected."
Another Ayodhya resident, Anil Yadav, a college graduate now preparing for competitive examinations, says, "We have friends from all communities. We celebrate Holi and Eid together. Some politicians and right-wing groups may be whipping up sentiments on Ram temple issue, but I am going to be focussed on my career goals."
"The Supreme Court will decide on the contentious issue, and everyone should respect that," he says.
The chorus has grown within the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh Parivar, seeking construction of a temple there through ordinance as the apex court recently fixed the Ayodhya title suit for the first week of January next year before an appropriate bench, which will decide the schedule of hearing.
Several BJP and VHP leaders have claimed that majority population of Ayodhya and rest of the country want to see the temple get built as it is a "matter of faith" for them.
Lucknow-native Himanshu Singh, a fresh law school graduate, who spent part of his childhood in Ayodhya, says, "Politicians and religious outfits' leaders should not try to become our spokespersons. Temple or no temple, why should they decide on behalf of people."