KARNATAKA

15,000 attend `Datta Jayanti' celebrations

CHIKMAGALUR, DEC. 30. The three-day ``Datta Jayanti'' celebrations concluded peacefully at the Dattatreya Peeta on Sunday.

More than 15,000 persons from all over the State, including women and children, paid homage to the ``padukas'' (silver sandals) of Lord Dattatreya at the hilltop shrine.

Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse a group of people who tried to throw stones at house of the Shakadri. Elaborate security arrangements had been made to prevent any untoward incident. Barricades had been erected to regulate the entry of devotees to the pilgrimage centre.

Although the attendance was poor in the morning, the number of visitors to the ``peeta'' increased in the afternoon. People arrived in cars, vans, and lorries. The KSRTC operated special buses.

The Bajrang Dal conducted a ``Shoba Yatra'' in Chikmagalur on Saturday. More than 5,000 persons participated in the colourful procession along the main street of the town. An idol of Lord Dattatreya was taken out in the procession. The town had a festive atmosphere. Mr. Sunil Kumar, Joint Convenor of the State unit of the Bajrang Dal, said at a public meeting later, that some places of worship had become ``shelters for terrorists''. He asked why a call to fight terrorism should hurt the feelings of members of any community.

He said there were documents to prove that the Dattatreya Peeta was different from the Bababudan Darga.

The struggle of the Bajrang Dal in the past five years had resulted in the appointment of an administrative committee as well as an executive officer by the Government to supervise the functioning of the peeta.Mr. Kumar denied that the Bajrang Dal was provoking communal feelings.

He alleged that the Government was trying to curb the Datta Jayanti celebrations by the use of excessive police force.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishat and the Bajrang Dal would continue the ``struggle'' until a Hindu priest was appointed and an idol of Lord Dattatreya was installed.

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