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BJP protests against arrest, incarceration

By Our Special Correspondent



The BJP president, L. K. Advani, and the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, address the media at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, on Friday after meeting the President in connection with the arrest of the Kanchi Acharya. — Photo:V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, NOV. 19. The Bharatiya Janata Party today announced that it would launch a nationwide movement against the action of the Tamil Nadu Government in seeking police custody for the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi.

The former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, led a delegation of the party's top brass to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening to protest against the manner in which the Acharya had been "arrested and then incarcerated.''

The BJP's three-day nation-wide agitation — coinciding with the Acharya's days in custody — will be led by the party president, L. K. Advani. He will sit on a day-long dharna and hunger strike here tomorrow. The former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, will lead the sit-in on Sunday and the next day, Jaswant Singh will take over. Mr. Vajpayee will wrap up the agitation on Monday.

In a memorandum to the President, the BJP said: "We do not comment on the merits of the case. Our law, before which all citizens are equal, must take its course. We share though the anguish and the hurt sentiments of crores of Hindus of our country, to whom the Kanchi Peetam is an ancient and greatly revered institution.'' According to the BJP, the "sanctity and dignity of the Kanchi Peetam, as indeed of all religious and spiritual institutions, of all denominations, must be protected from political pulls and pressures.''

Condemning police custody for Sri Jayendra Saraswathi for three days — "especially since he had emphatically stated that he would fully cooperate with the investigation in judicial remand'' — the memorandum noted: "The Swamiji is being treated more as a convicted criminal than as just an accused. We hold the Government of Tamil Nadu directly responsible for any ill-treatment meted out to him in police custody.''

Besides, the BJP made out a case for evolving suitable guidelines for dealing with cases in which religious personalities and institutions are involved. Stating that India "is a land of many faiths,'' the BJP said: "Secularism, however, is not a licence for an irreligious or anti-religious approach to issues and events.''

Though the seven-member BJP delegation met the media briefly after meeting Mr. Kalam to read out the memorandum, both Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani refused to answer questions except clarifying that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had never been part of the National Democratic Alliance.

Other members of the delegation were Dr. Joshi, Mr. Jaswant Singh, Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Sudheendra Kulkarni.

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