Lucknow: Limited vehicular movement, deserted commercial establishments, half-day schools and heavy armed deployment - this was the scene in some areas of the city Thursday, hours before the Allahabad High Court`s judgment on the Ayodhya dispute.
Roads in Aliganj, Jankipuram, Kapoorthala, Mahanagar, Vikas Nagar and other areas of the Old City which have a sizeable Muslim population, wore a deserted look.
"My area usually remains abuzz with activities. But today (Thursday) you will find only a handful of people moving on the roads. Silence has enveloped the surroundings ahead of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute verdict," Zuber Ahmad, a retired government employee and Chowk locality resident, said.
"The flag marches by the paramilitary forces and other security personnel in the area have also created a sense of scare among the locals who are preferring to stay in their houses," he added.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court is to deliver its verdict in the 125-year-old litigation at 3.30 p.m.
The court premises have been turned into a fortress, with armed personnel of the Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) on a round-the-clock vigil since Wednesday.
Movement of vehicular traffic on all roads around the high court complex has been banned. No vehicle, other than that of judges, is allowed entry. Even court staff and lawyers have to park their vehicles outside.
Allahabad High Court Chief Justice F.I. Rebello and Lucknow bench senior judge Justice Pradeep Kant have ordered special arrangements for mediapersons who have come from around the world to know the outcome of the litigation that has kept India on tenterhooks for quite some time.
Owing to paucity of space inside the courtroom, mediapersons will not be allowed inside, but a special temporary media centre has been set up across the road in the district collectorate to accommodate at least 400 journalists.
"Both hard and soft copies of the judgment would be made available to the media within 5-10 minutes of the rising of the bench," the chief justice told a delegation of journalists Wednesday evening.
In an unprecedented move, entry to the key courtroom will remain limited only to parties and their counsel in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute case, but none would be permitted to carry mobile phones or leave the courtroom until the rising of the bench.
Litigants connected with other cases have been formally advised not to visit the court, while entry of lawyers would also be regulated strictly through special passes for the day.
Some other parts of this Uttar Pradesh capital wore a nearly deserted look.
A large number of vendors of the `Tehri Pulia Sabzi Mandi`, who normally start their business from around 6 in the morning, did not turn up Thursday. And the vendors who came to work found it difficult to sell their stocks as only a few buyers approached them.
"The sale has dropped by nearly 60-70 percent. Had it been any other day, you would not have seen me sitting idle and waiting for customers," said Rajesh Chaurasia, who sells vegetables from a makeshift establishment in Tehri Pulia.
Several schools and colleges, including Queens Inter College, Unity Degree College, Pioneer School and Christian College, announced a half day for students in the wake of the Judgment Day.
"As a preventive measure, we have taken the decision, which in turn will enable the students to reach their houses by the time the judgment is announced," Queens College principal R.P. Mishra told reporters.
With only a limited number of buses and autorickshaws plying on the roads, people were seen standing for long at bus and tempo stands.
"I had an appointment with my doctor, who runs his clinic in Nishatganj. I have waited for a tempo for 45 minutes," said Sarvesh Asthana at the Vikas Nagar tempo stand.