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Vajpayee, Venkataraman join dharna in Delhi
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | November 22, 2004 17:43 IST
Last Updated: November 22, 2004 22:11 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party's three-day dharna to protest against Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi's arrest ended on Monday, but not before former president R Venkataraman took to New Delhi's streets along with former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chandrashekhar.
"The sit-in is ending today, but the struggle will go on till a government comes that gives equal respect to all religious leaders," Vajpayee told the protesters squatting on Parliament Street.
He pointed towards Venkataraman and Chandrashekhar and said, "One of my colleagues said that it was rare to see such a gathering on a platform. I would like to correct him that we have not come on a platform, but on the roads to register our protest.
"This is not the way the country's rulers should treat a dharmacharya of the Shankarcharya's standing.
"When we met President A P J Abdul Kalam the other day we impressed upon him that a separate law should be enacted to deal with religious leaders and it should be ensured that they are not humiliated.
"Jagatguru Shankaracharya has not only been humiliated, but he was denied the right to do puja in jail. The first phase of the protest is ending today because his police custody has ended, but our struggle will continue till his name is cleared."
He described the arrest as a blot on India's rulers. "A person who served the people was treated like a convict."
He regretted that the Centre and the TN government remained insensitive to the feelings of the Hindus.
Chandrashekhar said he had come to join the protest against the advice of his doctors because he wanted to express his resentment.
Venkataraman recalled his association with the Kanchi mutt and said that it was the present Shankaracharya who started doing social work through the mutt and set up a number of schools, colleges and hospitals for the welfare of the people. "A lot of rumours are doing rounds as plausible reasons for the action against the seer. I was hurt and so I am here to join those who are expressing their sentiments against the arrest," he said.
National Democratic Alliance convenor George Fernandes recalled his meeting with Jayendra Saraswathi in Vellore jail and said that when he asked the seer about his health, he said he was mentally hurt. "My fifty years of service has been rendered useless in one hour," the minister quoted him as saying.
Fernandes said Jayendra Saraswathi was also concerned about the manner in which other members of the mutt were being treated.
Former finance minister Jaswant Singh led the demonstration and hunger strike on the concluding day.
Sushma Swaraj, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Arif Mohammed Khan, S S Ahluwalia, Kalraj Misra, Sahib Singh Verma and a number of other BJP leaders were there at the venue.
More reports from Delhi
Read about: Assembly Election 2003 | Attack on Parliament