For quite some time, media outlets have published articles claiming that residents of Ayodhya do not really want a Ram Mandir to be built at Ayodhya and are concerned with other priorities.
The OneIndia report states, “As the chorus for early construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya grows ahead of next year’s parliamentary election, many residents say the disputed site should be turned into a playground for children, and not politicians.”
Left propaganda outlet published a report with the headline, “‘Ram temple profits politicians, not Ayodhya’: On the Babri anniversary, a town looks back – and forward”.
In another report titled, “Adityanath’s hardline Hindutva is getting a lukewarm reception in Ayodhya”, Scroll asserted that “Some residents are angry that the BJP is using the Ram temple issue for votes. Others are more worried about bread-and-butter issues.”
Due to the narrative furthered by these outlets based on the statements of extremely few people, OpIndia.com attempted to gauge the mood of residents of Ayodhya. While a handful of people may as well say exactly what the other portals claim, an overwhelming majority don’t.
The opinions of the residents of Ayodhya who we spoke to, were strictly divided along religious lines. While Hindus firmly believe that a Bhavya Ram Mandir should be built at Ram Janambhoomi, Muslims believe that the Babri Masjid should be rebuilt.
Hindus at Ayodhya overwhelmingly support the construction of the Ram Mandir. While they want other facilities such as hospitals and playgrounds to be built at Ayodhya, they are of the opinion that there was sufficient space in Ayodhya for all of it to proceed simultaneously.
They also believe that the Ram Mandir will usher in an era of development at Ayodhya as devotees from all across the world would pour in to worship Shri Rama at his Janambhoomi, thus felicitating ‘Vikas’ in the region.
One resident told OpIndia.com, “Playgrounds are there in every school and other places too but when the question of Aastha arises, then the Mandir should be built at Ram Janambhoomi only.” Another resident said, “In a society, there are multiple necessities and all of them must be fulfilled. But at Ram Janambhhomi, only the Temple should be built.”
People were convinced that a Ram Mandir originally stood there at the now disputed site. We were told by one such person, “A Ram Mandir did exist there, the Babri Masjid was constructed after demolishing the Temple. And a Ram Mandir definitely should be built there.” One person told us, “Not 100%, the Ram Mandir should be constructed 110%.”
Yogi Adityanath also appeared to be immensely popular among the residents of Ayodhya for focusing on developing Ayodhya as a religious centre for Hindus. Arvind Narayan Pandey, a resident of Ayodhya, told us, “The programmes on Deepotsava were very good and it has had a very good impact on the residents of Ayodhya. Many governments have come and gone but they have paid no attention to Ayodhya but Yogi ji has come to Ayodhya and organized such great programs.” He added, “Yogi ji is a good yashasvi Chief Minister and the inspiration he has provided to Hindutva, the kind of wave that has been generated across the country for Ram Mandir, a conclusion will surely be reached soon.”
Sonu Singh agreed, “The Deepotsava that was celebrated here was excellent. The Chief Minister has done a lot of things for Ayodhya, something which previous governments could not do.” He added, “Yogi ji is doing great work, and I believe that he will continue to work diligently for the betterment of the state.”
People also appeared to be unsure about the extent to which the BJP could felicitate the construction of the Ram Mandir. Sumit Barman told us, “Prime Minister Modi could have done it but he doesn’t have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. He wouldn’t be able to pass an ordinance. And the matter is in the Courts, so it appears unlikely that the BJP will be able to do anything.” Another resident, Vikrant Mishra, differed in his opinion, “Prime Minister Modi could do a lot of things but let’s see if he does it or not. If he does, then he will win 2019 comprehensively.”
While Ayodhya-vasis had no issue if a Masjid was constructed elsewhere, they vehemently oppose the construction of any Masjid near to Janambhoomi. One resident told us, “Why should Babri Masjid be constructed there when there wasn’t any Masjid there in the first place? Jab Babur chaley gaye toh Masjid kaisi?” Another person echoed similar sentiments, “Not in my life. Masjid tha hi nahi jo wahaan nirmaan ho.”
Muslim residents, on the other hand, believe that there’s no evidence to prove the existence of Ram Mandir at the place but everyone knows that a Masjid existed there and therefore, it is only fair that it is rebuilt. They were also hopeful that the Supreme Court verdict would come in their favour.
Contrary to reports by various media outlets, OpIndia.com discovered that Ram Mandir was still very much an issue for the residents of Ayodhya. Although it was quite clear that they do want other amenities, for them, it is not an either/or issue. Also, the residents overwhelmingly believed that Ram Mandir will contribute to development in the area. They also want the issue to be resolved amicably. Most importantly, Ayodhya-vasis believe, “Yeh Aastha ka vishay hai, Ram Mandir toh Ram Janambhoomi me banna hi chahiye.”