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January 21, 2002
1049 IST
updated 1218 IST

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VHP's Ayodhya rally begins on a peaceful note

Sharat Pradhan in Ayodhya

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Sant Chetavani yatra began on Monday morning with a puja on the banks of Sarayu river.

The president of VHP, Ashok Singhal led the yatra, with 3,000 VHP supporters following him in different vehicles.

A makeshift Ram temple has been constructed on an open truck for public display with a man dressed as Lord Hanuman guarding the temple.

The yatra is heading towards Lucknow where it is expected to reach by 3 pm and thereafter Singhal will address a public meeting.

The Uttar Pradesh government in Ayodhya has deployed heavy security and the entry of vehicles into the temple town is being strictly monitored.

VHP international secretary general Pravin Bhai Togadia said, "We cannot wait beyond a point. Now, it will be a fight to finish."

"The yatra is aimed at expressing the legitimate demand of Hindus that the Government hands over the entire land to Ram Janam Bhoomi Nyas (trust) to facilitate the construction of the temple at the earliest and we will be putting the same demand before Vajpayee," Togadia said.

While the VHP had faith in Vajpayee's assurance that the vexed issue could be sorted out by March 12 deadline of the VHP, the organisation was not part of any dialogue with any Muslim organisation on the issue, Togadia said.

The VHP, he said, would suspend its agitation only in the event of a war.

Interestingly, no BJP leader was present in the yatra.

Ramchandra Param Hans, president of Ram Janambhoomi Trust, was also not present.

He had said that he would not participate in the yatra if there were policemen around.

Those who participated in the yatra were shouting Jai Shri Ram and Mandir Vahin Baneynge.

Asked for the reason of lackluster support for the yatra, Ram Chandar, a shopkeeper said, "We are disillusioned with the yatra as there is no business happening in Ayodhya because of heavy police presence. The tourists are keeping away from the city for the past one month because of heavy police presence and therefore there is no support for this yatra from locals."

Though there was no BJP leader present in the yatra, Kalraj Mishra, president of the Uttar Pradesh unit of BJP said that the party would not object to any of its leader participating in the yatra.

Asked what was the purpose of yatra, Singhal said, "We want to send a message that the Ram temple is a pride of the Hindus, who want a magnificent temple to be erected at Ayodhya. And it is for the government to ensure that all hurdles in the path of this temple are removed."

Asked when the construction of the temple will begin, he refused to give an appropriate date.

The yatra is will cross Lucknow, Kanpur, Etawah, Aligarh and will conclude on January 26 at New Delhi with a public rally.

The VHP leaders are seeking an appointment with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but it is not confirmed whether Vajpayee would meet the VHP leaders.

With inputs from PTI

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