Friday, Oct 17, 2003
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By J.P. Shukla
The two important centres of VHP activity Karsevakpuram and Ramsevakpuram were deserted today following police raids on Wednesday. The `pandals' erected to provide shelter to the `Ram bhakts' and hold the "sankalp sammelan" were dismantled.
A press release issued by the media centre at Karsevakpuram, quoting the VHP working president, Ashok Singhal, claimed that several VHP officer-bearers would participate in tomorrow's programme.
It stressed that all the programmes would be conducted peacefully. Mr. Singhal alleged that some State Government officials who "subscribed to a particular ideology" were determined to victimise the `Ram bhakts'. The VHP had repeatedly said that its programme would be limited to offering worship and holding a `sankalp sabha', he said and urged the administration not to create any hurdle.
The restrictions, however, mean different things to different people. The common man thinks it is "unnecessary harassment".
For the thousands earning their bread by serving the pilgrims it means going without work for days. With the Sarayu's ghats looking empty without pilgrims, the priests, flower vendors and petty shopkeepers have been deprived of their income. Siya Sahchari, who used to earn about Rs. 60 a day by selling puja materials, made just Rs. 5 today. The situation was almost the same in the main market along the national highway connecting the town with Lucknow. Shops were open but there were no buyers.
The VHP and the BJP saw in this a "repetition" of 1990 when on October 30 and November 2 that year police opened fire to control karsevaks. The State BJP president, Vinay Katiyar, reacted angrily to the curbs placed on the entry of people into Ayodhya. "The entire region has been placed under a curfew-like condition and even the monkeys of Ayodhya had been forced to starve," he said. Instead of helping the construction of a Ram temple by persuading Muslims to withdraw their claim over the disputed site, the Government had created a reign of terror in Ayodhya, Mr. Katiyar said. He, however, felt that the overreaction of the State Government had helped the VHP to fulfil its objective with the media attention fully focussed on the developments in Ayodhya.
VHP sources suggested that Mr. Singhal, as also groups of karsevaks, had taken shelter in nearby rural areas inaccessible to police. They could `surface' tomorrow to participate in the VHP's programme.
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