Lucknow : Day one of the ’84-kosi parikrama yatra’ of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad began on a stormy yet predictable note with the UP police clamping down on all those trying to attend the event. Among those arrested were VHP leaders Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia.
Singhal was detained at Lucknow Airport, where he courted arrest and refused to return to New Delhi.
The arrest of Togadia in Ayodhya came as the most dramatic event of the day. His sudden appearance near the Sadguru temple remained a mystery in view of the tight security arrangements and strict monitoring of visitors to Ayodhya. He was arrested for defying prohibitory orders minutes after he walked on the streets for a few metres in front of dozens of camera-wielding mediapersons and VHP workers.
Togadia’s arrival in Ayodhya despite the police look-out for him indicated that he could have entered the town days before the administration sealed the borders of Faizabad district. VHP sources, however, said that Togadia had entered the temple town late on Saturday night in a vehicle.
An official spokesman told the media in Lucknow on Sunday evening that in all 1,696 people were arrested in the crackdown.
State’s Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) RK Vishwakarma said the tight security arrangements will continue in the state to prevent those trying to attend the yatra. All the arrested people will be put in judicial custody for next 14 days, and preventive arrests will continue till September 13 when the yatra is supposed to end.
It is believed that close to 10,000 security personnel have been deployed in and around the Faizabad district. The figure includes state police personnel, 11 companies of the RAF and 12 companies of CRPF. The twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad look like a battle zone with barricades at every crossing and police personnel lined up on both sides of roads leading towards the main temples. Dozens of barriers have been set up on the National Highway from Lucknow as well as the roads leading to the six districts where the yatra is supposed to take place — Faizabad, Barabanki, Basti, Bahraich, Ambedkarnagar and Gonda.
Earlier in the day, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das symbolically inaugurated the yatra by walking ten steps outside his temple at the Ramdas Chhavani and moments later he was put under house arrest. The police claimed that the yatra had been “foiled” but the VHP said it will hold protests on Monday across Faizabad against the arrest of its leaders. Such protests would be held at other places beyond UP, a VHP leader said.
Prominent among those arrested are Swami Chinmayanand, Ram Vilas Vedanti, BJP MLAs Ram Chandra Yadav and Savatribai Phule and VHP’s provincial coordinator Acharya Kushmuni.
The ruling Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said the government had saved the state from a confrontation. “We will not let Uttar Pradesh become another Gujarat. There is no place for communal tension in the state,” Chaudhary said in Lucknow. Senior minister Azam Khan said in Rampur that he was “thankful” to the people of the state that they had not fallen in the VHP’s trap.