Several leaders, seers arrested; State seeks additional Central forces
Following a massive crackdown on Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders and seers associated with the controversial “chaurasi kos parikrama” in and around Ayodhya on Sunday, the Samajwadi Party government claimed to have foiled the VHP’s attempt to undertake the yatra. Several VHP leaders including Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, seers, religious leaders and workers were arrested in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.
A Home Department spokesman said those detained had been taken on 14-day remand.
The former Union Minister, Swami Chinmayanand, was placed under house arrest in the Mumukshu Ashram in Shahjahanpur district. A BJP spokesman said the party MLA from Kaiserganj in Bahraich district, Mukut Behari Verma, was arrested.
Inspector-General (Law and Order) R.K. Vishwakarma said preventive arrests were made for defying the ban imposed on the yatra.
Even as the VHP claimed to have kicked off the parikrama with a symbolic ritual on the banks of the Saryu in Ayodhya on Sunday, State Home Secretary Kamal Saksena said here “the parikrama has not started.” He said there would be no let-up in security measures and the ban on the yatra would remain effective till September 13 — the deadline fixed by the VHP for the parikrama to conclude.
The Home Secretary said the ban orders were successfully implemented. “Those who violated the ban were arrested,” he told reporters. However, the emergence of VHP leader Praveen Togadia in Ayodhya on Sunday, despite the tight restrictions placed on the movement of VHP leaders to the temple town, surprised many.
When asked how Mr. Togadia could reach Ayodhya, the Home Secretary said he was arrested when he reached the temple town.
An alert has been sounded in all districts and security was further tightened following the VHP’s call to stage demonstrations at district headquarters on Monday in protest against the arrests. Security has been tightened at the Samajwadi Party headquarters in Lucknow following the attack on its Delhi office by VHP workers on Sunday.
In addition to the present deployment of security forces, one company of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and two companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had been deployed in Faizabad district. One company each of the CRPF had been deployed in Basti, Gonda, Bahraich, Barabanki, Ambedkar Nagar, Varanasi, Kanpur, Meerut, Agra and Gorakhpur districts.
Mr. Vishwakarma said an additional 30 companies of the Central forces were sought for maintaining law and order. He said 12 companies of the CRPF and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were made available to the State on Sunday.
The maximum number of arrests (595) were made in Faizabad, followed by 167 in Barabanki, 111 in Agra, 100 in Kanpur, 59 in Ambedkar Nagar, 59 in Gonda, 53 in Sultanpur and 43 in Allahabad. Preventive arrests were also made in Varanasi, Basti, Lucknow, Deoria, Ghaziabad, Chandauli , Kushinagar, Chitrakoot and Jalaun districts.
SP lauds people
While it is not clear what had actually transpired in the two-hour-long meeting between SP president Mulayam Singh and the Ashok-Singhal-led VHP delegation on August 17, the ruling party applauded the people of the State for defeating the designs of the “communal forces”, despite allegations of “match fixing”.
The SP has faced criticism from the Congress and the BJP, which accused the UP ruling party of playing into the hands of Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh and the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Nirmal Khatri have slammed the SP and the BJP for playing a fixed match. The UPCC president, a Faizabad MP, likened the VHP-sponsored CKP to a “match-fixing” between the SP and the BJP.
“The Samajwadi Party lauds the people of Ayodhya in particular and the State in general for distancing themselves from the VHP yatra, which was supported by the BJP,” said party spokesperson and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Rajendra Chaudhary in a statement released on Sunday.
Maintaining that the people of the State had themselves foiled the VHP’s attempt to create communal disturbance, Mr. Chaudhary lauded a “large section of the sadhus and seers for declining to become pawns in the hands of communal forces”.
What raised eyebrows about the alleged real purpose of the meeting was the statement given by Mr. Singhal after his talks with Mr. Singh that the SP chief had agreed to mediate with the Muslims on the construction of the Ram temple.
The SP’s “Muslim face”, Mohammad Azam Khan, on August 19 slammed the SP president for meeting Ashok Singhal, calling him one of the persons responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Within hours, the State decided to ban the VHP yatra, citing the apex court ruling on maintaining the status quo at the disputed complex in Ayodhya.