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VHP's much-hyped Ayodhya yatra a non-starter

August 25, 2013 14:09 IST

VHP's much-hyped Ayodhya yatra a non-starter

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Sharat Pradhan in Ayodhya

The poor turnout of volunteers made it evident that the 'parikrama' had failed to evoke interest among the local population, reports Sharat Pradhan  

The highly-publicised '84-kosi parikrama' convened by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to mobilise mass opinion for early construction of a Ram temple at the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya, remained a non-starter.

The handful of VHP leaders, who were camping in the temple town and had gone underground shortly after the Akhilesh Yadav government clamped a complete ban on the 'parikrama', were arrested. More than 1,000 other VHP activists were picked up by the police from different parts of the state.

Among those arrested was VHP leader Ashok Singhal who was arrested soon after he arrived at the Lucknow airport by a commercial flight from New Delhi. BJP MLA Ram Chandra Yadav was arrested as he set out of his home in Rudauli, barely 35 km from Ayodhya, on Sunday morning. Singhal claimed he had flown to Lucknow so that he could drive down to Ayodhya to launch the 'parikrama'.

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VHP's much-hyped Ayodhya yatra a non-starter

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The poor turnout of volunteers made it amply evident that the 'parikrama' failed to evoke interest among the local population. It came as a sharp contrast to Singhal's loud proclamation that the event would draw 40,000 to 50,000 people .

The UP administration ordered a ban on the yatra after it was discovered that the 'parikrama' was not a conventional one that had already been carried out in April-May last.

"Any new religious ritual of this kind especially since it involves a march through six districts with a substantial minority population would have heightened communal tension in the area, hence a ban was considered appropriate," said UP's Principal Home Secretary R M Srivastava, while announcing the ban last week.

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Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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VHP's much-hyped Ayodhya yatra a non-starter

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Dr Praveen Togadia was one the most prominent VHP leaders to be arrested from the banks of the Saryu river, where he had arrived to perform a ritual to mark the launch of the 'parikrama'. The vociferous VHP strongman who had managed to dodge the police for quite sometime was finally cornered near the remote Gola Ghat on the Saryu banks.

Togadia was mobbed by scores of mediapersons, TV cameras and police as soon as he came out of his hideout. However, while he was being pushed around, he did manage to utter a few words in support of the 'parikrama'. He condemned the ban by the Samajwadi Party government. "This is a purely a non-political religious yatra that we wished to take out around this holy town of Ayodhya. It is going to take the form of a movement and will be witnessed in each district of the country and will also go from village to village," he said.

A few supporters rallying behind Togadia raised Hindutva slogans carrying banners emboldened with the announcement, "84-kosi  'parikrama' ka udghatan".  As Togadia was whisked away in a heavily guarded police convoy, some of the supporters plunged into the Saryu waters for a holy dip. They later proclaimed, “With the dip we have taken the resolve for the 'parikrama', which now stands formally launched.”

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Image: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com

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VHP's much-hyped Ayodhya yatra a non-starter

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Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas (Trust) chief Mahant Nritya Gopaldas, who was prevented from going to the Saryu river, preferred to opt for "house arrest."

Prominent among others to be arrested were former local BJP MLA Lalloo Singh, vice president of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas Ram Vilas Vedanti andVHP spokesman Sharad Sharma.

The police continued to make arrests as lesser known VHP volunteers in saffron or white robes, sporting long 'teekas' on their foreheads, emerged from temples and ashrams in different parts of Ayodhya .

Slogans of “Ram lalla hum aaye hain; mandir yahin banayenge” rent the air each time a batch of VHP volunteers courted arrest.

But it was this slogan that was remindful of the high pitch that the Ayodhya movement had touched in the late eighties and early nineties, before the Babri Masjid building was razed by violent Hindu mobs who stormed it on December 6, 1992. Since then a makeshift Ayodhya temple stands in its place, where status quo is to be maintained as per orders of the highest court of the land where the matter has been awaiting a final verdict.


Image: Pilgrims walk towards the Ram temple as a policeman stands guard in Ayodhya
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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