The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dharmendra gulps pride

Bhopal, March 28: Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Acharya Dharmendra today swallowed pride to opt for freedom, giving Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh a reason to smile.

Acharya Dharmendra, lodged in Ujjain jail since March 16 for making an inflammatory speech against a minority community, had denied the charges framed under Section 153(a) and 153 (b) and repeatedly refused to take bail, insisting on an honourable and unconditional acquittal.

Acharya Dharmendra was released today on bail by the court of chief judicial magistrate Raj Kumar Bhave at Dewas, about 100 km from Bhopal, after his lawyers furnished a security bond of Rs 5,000.

The VHP had launched a state-wide agitation but, without the participation of ally BJP, his campaign did not get much popular support. Informed sources said this had a sobering effect on Acharya Dharmendra and he opted for bail.

The legal advisers to the VHP leader had also made it clear that other than bail, there was no other way he could avoid judicial custody. Yesterday, chief minister Digvijay Singh had said the VHP leader would have to “languish” in jail if he stuck to his stand.

Acharya Dharmendra’s lawyer Rajendra Bapat, however, tired to put up a brave face. He would now move the sessions court or Jabalpur High Court for quashing the charges, Bapat said.

“I have made it clear before and I am saying it now. In Madhya Pradesh, you cannot break a law and get away with it,” a triumphant Digvijay said.

The chief minister added that his government would deal “sternly” with all those trying to spark communal tension in the state. “Anybody is welcomed to visit the state but be careful about the law of the land,” he said.

Digvijay’s supporters said the acharya was the second VHP leader to be “tamed” by the chief minister. A few months ago, Digvijay had arrested firebrand leader Sadhvi Rithambara but her arrest failed to garner much sympathy.

All eyes are now on VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia who has been visiting the state frequently.

Digvijay has been cautioning the VHP leader against making provocative speeches. The chief minister is playing it safe to the extent that each time Togadia makes a speech in the state, the Digvijay regime gets it filmed and scrutinised by the legal experts.

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