On Train from Ayodhya

Article excerpt

On Train from Ayodhya

I was perhaps the only Pakistani journalist who had the opportunity to experience the highly explosive situation of Ayodhya from a very close point that was Lucknow, the nerve centre of the Babri Masjid Ram Janambhoomi issue.

On the night of October 7, my sister and I were the only two girl passengers standing on Lucknow Chaar Bagh railway station, one of the most beautiful, crowded, and busy railway stations of India.

But tonight it was presenting a haunted look. Inspite of the long curfew break there was no hustle and bustle neither in the city nor at the railway station. Only few passengers were waiting for the train and they too were those for whom this journey was inevitable due to certain emergencies.

In the dark shadows of night the building of the station was echoing with the slogans of "Jay Sri Ram" chanted by the groups of Saffron-clad youths. The Ganga Jamuna Express was coming from Ayodhya. I got into the train tightly packed with the Karsevaks, returning to their home towns from Ayodhya, after earning the "pun" (blessing).

They were seated everywhere, on seats, berths and even on floor. All dressed in saffron attire orange bands were wrapped around their heads with the words of Ram printed on it, in Hindu. The pockets of their shirts were decorated with the saffron colour stickers again with the name of "Ram". They were holding Trishul in hands. Although the government of India had already issued a decree announcing the ban on carrying of Trishul. But virtually no law could be enforced upon the Kar Sevaks.

They were aged between 20 to 50 but majority of them comprising youths. There were some young girls also in their band. From tip to toe they were presenting a wretched look, with the dirty dresses and dusty hair, but their faces were gleaming with excitement, happiness and satisfaction.

They had occupied the reserved seats but ticket checker did not dare to ask them to leave the seats. He clearly refused when some passengers demanded for their reserved berths. The servants of Ram were travelling without ticket. Free services of buses and trains were provided to them. Special trains were also arranged for Kar Sevaks at the government expenses. During the journey when the train stopped at some station people there, presented them warm greetings. The treatment of people with them was more respectful than the pilgrims. Tea, food, fruits, soft drinks, biscuits, cigarettes, paan, were being served to them generously without any cost. At some stations even they were garlanded. At the beginning of the journey I was slightly frightened but very soon my harassment vanished, due to the fact that they behaved with us very kindly. Their attitude was very cooperative. They offered us food and tea. I accepted the clay cup of hot tea as a sign of their warm hospitality.

Some of them were also raising slogans against Pakistan unaware of the fact that we two girls are Pakistani. They were curious about us but I made them satisfied by telling that we are from a Muslim family of Lucknow and going to Delhi where we study in the University. I am afraid if they would have been aware of our national identity our lives would have been at risk.

The Kar Sevaks travelling with me were very obliged by the police for their help, assistance and cooperation in inflicting harm to the Masjid and providing them a safe escape. One enthusiastic group of Kar Sevaks showed me the old bricks of the mosque which they had succeeded in breaking from one of the walls. Hindus were keeping the bricks of the mosque as a sacred souvenir. They were showing them to all the passengers as a proof of their victory. Bricks were carefully wrapped in a transparent polythene bag. They said "we hardly managed to cross the barriers and dodged the police. When we were trying to break the wall of the Masjid at least to take some bricks as a victory token of our struggle, we were being hit with clubs and gun bus but Ram Ki Sogandh we felt no pain". …