Foiling the VHPs plans to launch its 84 kosi parikrama from Ayodhya,the Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday arrested hundreds of VHP leaders and sants,including Ashok Singhal,Praveen Togadia,Ram Vilas Vedanti and former BJP MLA Lallu Singh.
However,the VHP claimed its programme had been launched successfully as Mahant Nritya Gopal Das,head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, symbolically inaugurated the yatra by walking a few steps outside his temple at Mani Ram ki Chhaowni,before he was detained. Both Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and Mahant Raghavacharya were put under house arrest.
I was not going to Saryu river for the parikrama,but I walked a few steps as a symbolic start to flag off the parikrama… It is wrong to stop people from performing parikrama, said Das.
According to the VHPs plan,sants were to perform a puja at Saryu ghat,and then proceed to Makhauda in nearby Basti district to launch the 20-day,252-km parikrama by performing a havan and holding a public meeting. But following the crackdown,the programmes could not be held.
In Ayodhya,barricades and police pickets were placed on all major roads,including the Faizabad-Ayodhya road. The Saryu bridge,connecting Ayodhya to Gonda and Basti,was sealed off.
Nobody came here to perform the havan as announced by VHP. We just conducted our daily ritual,there was no VHP programme.
Perhaps it was Gods wish, said Pujari Suraj Das of Makhauda temple.
But claiming that a group of sants from Jaipur had offered prayers at the Saryu ghat,VHP leaders announced their decision to continue the parikrama. They said a new batch of sants would resume the yatra from the place designated for the night halt.
The state police claimed to have arrested a total of 1,696 people today. In Faizabad district,625 people were arrested on Sunday while 95 people were arrested on Saturday.
Soon after his arrest,Togadia said the VHP would hold demonstrations at district headquarters across the country on Monday. We will take all steps for construction of a Ram temple. Stopping the yatra is curbing our fundamental right. From tomorrow,VHP will start protests in all districts across the country, he said.
In Lucknow,Singhal was detained at the airport after he arrived from Delhi. Amid protests by VHP and BJP workers,Singhal was taken to Nawabganj bird sanctuary in Unnao and detained at the guesthouse there.
Togadia,who has been held in Faizabad jail,is likely to be shifted to Etah jail. Vedanti and Singh,who were arrested with Togadia,may also be shifted to Etah,said sources.
Sources said Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav called up District Magistrate Vipin Kumar Dwivedi and congratulated him for handling the situation well.
Despite the VHPs claims that a large number of sants would participate in the yatra,the programme did not get much response from local sants and residents. While shops remained closed in the morning,they opened a little after noon,after VHP leaders were arrested.
Whatever restriction was imposed today will be lifted… From tomorrow,it will be a normal day and all school and colleges will be open, said Dwivedi.
Faizabad SP K B Singh said police personnel will continue to be deployed in Ayodhya till September 15.
Meanwhile,VHP margdarshak mandal member Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati said several sants from Rajasthan had been stopped in Agra. Chinmayananda himself was placed under house arrest in Shahjahanpur.
Stating that there will be no change in their programme,he said the parikrama will continue till September 13,when it is scheduled to conclude with prayers in Makhauda after passing through Faizabad,Basti,Gonda,Ambedkar Nagar,Barabanki and Bahraich. Sants are ready to get arrested,they will restart the yatra immediately after their release, he said.
Sants from across the country are scheduled to participate in the yatra on different dates. During the yatra,sants are expected to offer prayers in temples,deliver religious discourses and hold meetings with villagers to raise mass awareness on the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.