With up to 100,000 Hindu nationalists set to descend on the Indian city of Ayodhya on November 25, some Muslim families are preparing to skip town rather than risk the potential for communal violence.
Muslim leaders say they fear a repeat of the scenes of 1992, when a violent Hindu mob tore down a centuries-old mosque in Ayodhya that they claim was built at the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of Hinduism’s most revered figures.
More than 2,000 Muslims were killed across India in the riots that followed the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque almost 26 years ago. In Ayodhya itself, the mob of around 150,000 spread out from the site and attacked Muslim-owned property, razing shops and killing 18 people.
Sunday’s protests, led by two hardline Hindu nationalist groups, represent the largest gathering of this kind since the events of December 1992. The groups, both closely tied to Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP party, are calling for the creation of a temple to Ram on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood.
“People in Ayodhya are worried,” said Zafaryab Jilani, a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. “They are apprehensive, and they feel threatened.”
Mr Jilani told The Independent he was aware of plans for Muslim families to temporarily leave town ahead of the Hindu gathering. “I don’t have any definite [numbers], but some people have informed me that they will go,” he said.