BJP pitches for yatra, Akhilesh government sees red

With the face off between the Uttar Pradesh State government and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad over the “chaurasi kos parikrama” showing no signs of relenting, arrest warrants have reportedly been issued against about 70 VHP leaders, including Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia and Ram Vilas Vedanti. The State government has sought the help of the governments of neighbouring States — Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan — in its efforts to thwart the yatra.

The State IG (Law and Order) Raj Kumar Vishwakarma said the neighbouring States have been asked to share intelligence inputs regarding the movement of VHP activists, and, if needed, make preventive detentions.

The VHP’s yatra is to begin on August 25 and will move across Ayodhya, Faizabad, Barabanki, Bahraich, Gonda, Basti and Ambedkar Nagar districts before culminating on September 13. Fearing arrest, several VHP leaders, including Ram Vilas Vedanti, have reportedly gone underground and may surface on Sunday.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav cancelled all his official engagements scheduled for Friday to take stock of security arrangements. The Chief Minister was billeted in his residence and held a meeting with party MLAs from Faizabad district. Security measures in Ayodhya, Faizabad and adjoining districts were intensified on Friday, two days before the VHP’s yatra on August 25. Security forces staged a flag march on Friday to instill confidence in the local populace. The IG (Law and Order) said three companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed in Faizabad and one company each has been deployed in Barabanki, Gonda, Bahraich, Basti and Ambedkar Nagar districts. Three additional SPs, 10 DSPs, 55 inspectors, 115 sub-inspectors and 900 constables have been sent to Faizabad by the IG, Lucknow Zone, at the request of the Faizabad SSP, Mr. Vishwakarma said. He claimed that notwithstanding the screening of visitors, normal pilgrimage would not be affected.

VHP international president Ashok Singhal, who was in Allahabad on Friday, alleged that he had been placed under house arrest. His charge was denied by the Allahabad police officials.

Meanwhile, the BJP president, Rajnath Singh, reiterated that the government should permit the yatra as Hindus had the right to pursue their religious beliefs. Mr. Singh, who was talking to reporters before addressing a traders’ meeting at Ravindralaya here, said if there was an apprehension of a law and order problem then adequate security forces should be deployed.