Ayodhya storm may lash Uttar Pradesh once again

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AyodhyaUCKNOW, August 21; Even as the Akhilesh Yadav Government–Vishwa Hindu Parishad faceoff over the Chaurasi Kos Yatra (yatra of 84 miles) at and around Ayodhya threatened to raise the spectre of the confrontation witnessed in 1990 when Mulayam Singh was Chief Minister, the government is determined not to allow the VHP to undertake the yatra.

A day after a ban was imposed on the VHP-sponsored yatra, which was to pass through six districts from August 25 to September 13 to mobilise support for the Ram temple, PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav reiterated, “A new tradition will not be allowed and communalism would not be tolerated.”

Meanwhile, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr. PC have been imposed in the districts of Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Basti, Bahraich, Gonda and Barabanki.

The senior Minister, who is also the uncle of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and younger brother of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, slammed the VHP. “Peace and harmony has to prevail for the State to develop, but the VHP wants to obstruct development,” Mr. Yadav said on Tuesday.

While the PWD Minister was reiterating the government’s position in the State capital, VHP general secretary Swami Chinmayanand indicated at Ayodhya that the VHP would defy the ban. He told reporters that if the yatra was not allowed, “sadhus” and “sants” would ensure that the journey was undertaken.

Already, the SP president is under attack, mainly from his trusted aide and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan, for meeting a VHP delegation led by Ashok Singhal in Lucknow on Saturday.

The Chief Minister was also present. It was at this meeting that the delegation sought permission for the yatra.

Reports said Mr. Singhal asked Mr. Mulayam Singh to mediate with Muslims in order to facilitate construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. It is learnt the SP chief later assured a delegation of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board that the status quo ante would be maintained at Ayodhya.

Angered by Mr. Mulayam Singh’s meeting with Mr. Singhal, Mr. Khan, in an official statement on Monday, came down heavily on the SP president for playing host to the VHP leader, who was described by the Urban Development Minister as one of the persons responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Mr. Khan said the meeting reopened old wounds as the Muslims were still coming to terms with the demolition. On reports that Mr. Singh was asked to mediate with Muslims, Mr. Khan made it clear in his statement that they would participate in the talks if the issue concerned reconstruction of the Babri Masjid.

Asked about Mr. Khan’s anger, the PWD Minister said on Tuesday: “Azam Bhai naraaz nahin hain, humlog baithkar baat kar lenge [Azam Bhai is not angry, we will sit and talk over the issue].” On Mr. Singhal’s meeting with Mr. Mulayam Singh, Mr. Shivpal Singh Yadav said in a democracy anybody could meet anyone.

Outlining the reasons for imposing the ban on the yatra, Principal Secretary (Home) R.M. Srivastava told reporters on Monday that nothing which created a law and order problem would be allowed.

Mr. Srinivas cited the May 9, 2011 Allahabad High Court order asking the State government to stop any activity in the disputed area and the Supreme Court’s directive on maintaining status quo.

He said the government had on August 10 received a letter from the VHP which said it planned to mobilise support for the temple at the disputed site. This was a violation of the courts’ directives, he added.

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