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High alert as India gets ready for Ayodhya verdict

Lucknow: It’s the night before the Lucknow bench delivers one of the most closely watched verdicts of the century — the title suit in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi matter will be decided on Thursday afternoon.

For security forces across the country, that means a high alert with arrangements in place already, particularly in Uttar Pradesh.

One lakh ninety thousand troops on the streets of UP are gearing up for a contentious verdict that has been 60 years in the coming.

Ayodhya has turned into a fortress with more security personnel than natives. Every person entering the city is being checked and a flag march is taking place in the heart of Lucknow.

The Lucknow High Court itself, where the title suit verdict will be read out on Thursday, has already become a no-entry zone. But a confident state government says there is no need to shut schools and colleges in Lucknow.

But anxiety is spread across even as the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an appeal for calm through ads in newspapers and Home Minister P Chidambaram asked all states to be on alert.

Chidambaram said: “I have asked all state governments to deal with law and order firmly.”

Across the board, all political parties, too, are appealing for calm post the verdict.

A space far removed from the Lucknow High Court has been specially set up for the media to report on the verdict on Thursday. With helicopters also being put on standby in UP, maintaining law and order is going to be the litmus test for the Chief Minister.

Not just in UP but across the country appeals for calm are being matched with strict security vigils.

The Karnataka government has banned demonstrations. Schools and colleges will remain closed for two days from Thursday. Leaves have been cancelled for police personnel and police, home guards, Karnataka State Reserve Police have all been deployed across the state — 18,000 in Bangalore alone.

Home secretary G K Pillai has already spoken to Rajasthan Chief Secretary on security. Hundreds of security personnel have been deployed at various places in Jaipur to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state.

In Ludhiana, special prayers are being held to maintain peace as the country awaits the verdict. And in Gujarat, the police have stepped up vigil in all public places, including railway stations, bus terminals, shopping centres and are frisking all vehicles coming into the state.

More than 70,000 security personnel have been deployed. The Coast Guard has been deployed across the 1,600-kilometre-long Gujarat coastline.

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