The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Priest attacked in shrine strife

Vadtal (Kheda), Feb. 16: The power struggle within the Swaminarayan sect got bloody today with about a thousand followers of Ajendra Prasad, an aspirant to the chief priest’s post, attacking Rakesh Prasad, the present head.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed in and around the temple, 50 km from Ahmedabad. This temple is run by the “old” Swaminarayan sect. The other, called Akshardham — where a militant attack took place last year — in Gandhinagar is under the “new” sect. The management and even the followers of the two sects are distinct from each other.

Jayant Parimal, the collector of Kheda district — under whose jurisdiction Vadtal falls — said police were looking for the miscreants. “We will arrest Ajendra’s followers for rioting and breaking the curfew,” Parimal said, adding that the administration had already flushed out most of the “mischief-mongers” from inside the huge temple and that the situation was under control.

Around 5 pm, supporters of Ajendra Prasad, who was removed unceremoniously around 20 days ago, barged into the temple premises and began a two-hour loot and arson. While some temple property was damaged by the mob, Rakesh Prasad managed to flee.

The police said Ajendra Prasad, who was getting his son married today on the temple premises, used the occasion to flaunt his muscle and encouraged his followers to ransack Rajendra’s office. Around 10,000 persons had come from all over the state to attend the wedding.

A week ago, the district administration had imposed prohibitory orders, as it had information that one group would try to forcibly evict the other from the seat of power.

The temple has been beset by a struggle for power that comes with huge amounts of money flowing in from various parts of the world. In 1995, one of the swamis was murdered by his rival and the case is still being fought in court.

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