OTHERS

VHP demands 'hassle-free darshan' at Ayodhya

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. Demanding a ``hassle-free darshan'' of the idol of Ram Lalla at the make-shift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today said it would take up the issue with the newly-created Ayodhya Cell in the Prime Minister's Office.

Talking to presspersons here, the VHP International Working President, Mr. Ashok Singhal, who was one among the senior VHP leaders to storm the heavily-guarded temple last month, said the pilgrims were facing a number of hurdles and hardships in having a `darshan' of Ram Lalla.

``Any pilgrim going to Ayodhya is forced to walk five km to reach the shrine. `Darshan' of the idol is allowed only from a distance even though the High Court had permitted `meaningful darshan' at the temple. There is no arrangement for removing and keeping shoes and getting flowers at the site.''

Expressing confidence that the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, would be able to solve the contentious Ayodhya issue, Mr. Singhal hoped the ``situation would improve.'' The VHP had announced March 12 as deadline to begin the construction of the temple at the disputed site.

When told that Mr. Vajpayee himself had disapproved of the VHP leaders' forced entry into the temple, he quipped: ``Mr. Vajpayee does not know the hardships which a pilgrim has to face in Ayodhya. I am sure things will improve if he visits there once.'' He said the heavy deployment of forces at the site, posing a ``war-like'' situation, was unnecessary with mounting expenditure on security. He demanded the setting up of a commission to look into the security expenses and to suggest ways to streamline the arrangements in Ayodhya.

`Atrocities on Hindus'

Alleging widespread atrocities on the minority Hindus in Bangladesh following the installation of Begum Khaleda Zia as Prime Minister, Mr. Singhal cautioned Dhaka of a possible Hindu backlash. He blamed Begum Zia for fanning Islamic fundamentalism which, he said, was responsible for the attacks.

An Indian parliamentary delegation should be sent to Bangladesh to make an on-the-spot assessment. Begum Zia herself should extend an invitation for the visit, he added.

Claiming that the situation in Bangladesh was worser than the 1971 liberation war when the Pakistani Army had committed excesses on the people, Mr. Singhal said over 40,000 Hindus had already left the country and nearly a lakh were waiting to take shelter in India. He said the pre-poll, anti-India tirade of Begum Zia had given rise to the present situation.

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