In an unexpected move, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh ordered on Thursday that all karsevaks be flushed out of Ayodhya.
The order came after the failure of talks between Singh and Ram Janambhoomi Nyas chief Mahant Ram Chandra Paramhans on Thursday evening.
The chief minister had flown to Ayodhya to speak to Paramhans about toning down the high pitch that the temple movement has taken of late.
But his effort failed when Paramhans, oldest of the litigants staking a claim to the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site on behalf of Hindus -- refused to budge from his stand.
"I have told the chief minister in no uncertain terms that we will not change our plans about carting the carved stone columns from our workshop to the proposed site of the temple on March 15, to mark the launching of temple construction," Paramhans told reporters shortly after Singh left.
"I raised objection to the total sealing of Ayodhya, which has made the lives of people miserable," he fumed.
He claimed that ordinary people could not even get their daily needs on account of the heavy police deployment and a ban on movement of vehicles in the town.
Paramhans also refused to believe the official theory that there is a terrorist threat to Ayodhya.
Virtually caught unawares, the chief minister, whose visit had been kept under wraps, simply said, "I had come to make an appeal to the sadhus to tone down their high-pitch programme."
But clearly he had made up his mind to act firmly. Thus, even before he reached Lucknow, Principal Home Secretary Naresh Dayal announced the government's decision to flush out the karsevaks, now called 'Ram sevaks'.
Dayal told reporters in Lucknow, "We have no choice but to flush them out" if they fail to respond to persuasion in the next few days. But he declined to say when and how the administration would do it.
With the ban on vehicular traffic having failed to curb the arrival of devotees from several parts of the country, orders have been issued to disallow any further entry from tomorrow. "Now on, we will not permit any outsider to step into Ayodhya," he said, but hastened to add, "that will not mean restricting the routine devotees who come daily to offer prayers at the makeshift temple."
Dayal said the number of karsevaks now present in Ayodhya is about 12,000 and the state government is committed to ensure that their number does not swell. He said the government would facilitate the karsevaks' return from Ayodhya and provide them adequate security. Special security arrangements have also been made for the residents of Faizabad and Ayodhya.
Referring to the bandh called by the VHP on Friday, March 1, Dayal said the government would not allow the forcible closure of shops and other business establishments in Uttar Pradesh.
Asked about the VHP's decision to hold meetings to pay homage to those killed in Wednesday's attack on the train in Gujarat, he said the government would not allow any such meeting at sensitive places.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh also visited Faizabad on Thursday. Addressing leaders of all major political parties of the country, he said, "It is high time everyone realises that the solution to this age-old dispute lies only in a court verdict."
He said, "It is good that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too has realised this. Otherwise, when I had suggested this as prime minister, Vajpayee insisted that since it was a matter of faith, courts had no role to play."
Additional reportage by the Press Trust of India
The Ayodhya Issue: Complete Coverage
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