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Varanasi stalemate over idol immersion: 30-hr resistance ends with post-midnight lathicharge

Nearly 30 people sustained injuries, while 25 were held for violating Section 144 of the CrPC, besides rioting and stone-pelting.

By: Express News Service | Allahabad |
September 24, 2015 12:28:55 am
Ganesh Chaturthi festival, allahabad high court, idol immersion, allahabad idol immersion, allahabad ganesh idol immersion, lucknow news, indian express A follower shields Swami Avimukteshwarananad as police crack down on protesters who were staging a dharna demanding they be allowed to immerse idols in Ganga, in Varanasi late Tuesday night. (PTI )

A 30-hour-long stalemate and blockade in Varanasi over immersion of Ganesh idol in Ganga ended in the wee hours of Wednesday, with the police cracking down on the protesters, including some Hindu seers. The police got the idol immersed in Lakshmi Kund. Nearly 30 people sustained injuries, while 25 were held for violating Section 144 of the CrPC, besides rioting and stone-pelting.

The administration had been trying to convince the protesters, who had blocked the Godaulia Chauraha, near Dashashwamedha Ghat, since Monday evening, to immerse the idol in Lakshmi Kund. But the protesters, led largely by Swami Avimukteshwarananda, disciple of Dwarka Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopananda, and Mahant Balak Das, insisted on immersing the idol in Ganga, in defiance of an Allahabad High Court order.

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“The efforts to pacify them were on till late evening. However, the protesters resorted to stone pelting, following which the administration took action. Further legal action is being taken,” said additional district magistrate (City), Vindhyavasini Rai.

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Police sources said that some of the protesters resorted to stone-pelting around 10 pm and it “could have led to a potentially troublesome situation as nearby localities had Muslim population”. Additional force, including Rapid Action Force, was summoned at the spot.

Past midnight, the police asked the protesters to lift the blockade. When the protesters refused to budge, the police cane charged them. “They were not only violating Section 144, but also the High Court order,” added Rai.

The administration also took custody of the Ganesh idol and arranged for its immersion at Lakshmi Kund.

Most of the injured were admitted to Shiv Prasad Gupta Hospital at Kabirchaura.

This morning, some protesters tried to gather at the hospital, but were quickly removed by the police. In some other areas, protesters burnt the effigy of the administration alleging brutality on the part of the police.

Talking to mediapersons at the hospital, Swami Avimukteshwarananda — who was removed from the protest site — said he never expected that sants would be treated in such a brutal manner in a city like Kashi. He claimed that when a terrorist was arrested four years ago, the police had to bring the person back to Varanasi as large number of Muslim people came on the streets. “However, when sants are being treated in such a manner, then we are not showing a united face,” he said.

Sources close to the Swami also went on to claim that he was targeted by the administration, as he was involved in ‘inauguration’ of the trauma centre at BHU after Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not come to Varanasi due to inclement weather. Some Congress leaders had also joined then.

Among those, who met Avimukteshwarananda on Wednesday, were Congress MLA from Pindra, Ajay Rai and BJP MLAs Ravindra Jaiswal and Jyotsana Srivastava. However, BJP district chief Nagendra Raghuvanshi said that he was not aware of individual movements.

“We are busy with panchayat elections. The party has not deliberated on the issue at any level. Some local workers may have joined the protests, which started suddenly,” said Raghuvanshi. He, however, added that with the Allahabad High Court order quite clear, the issue was unnecessarily blown out of proportion. “It appears that somebody wanted to gain mileage by creating an untoward situation,” he said.

Ganga Mahasabha’s Swami Jitendrananda also held a press conference, condemning the manner in which the protests were held. “These are the same people, who run Ganga Sewa Abhiyanam. And, now, they are insisting on polluting the River water. It appears that the idea was to bring bad name to Hindu sants, as people would come to think that we are not prepared to clean our own sacred river. They must not forget that, last year, the HC had given relief at the very last moment. The state and Puja Samitis had clearly told the court that they would abide by its order this year”.

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