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Diggers get five more weeks

Lucknow, April 10: Armed with a five-week extension from the court, the Archaeological Survey of India today continued its Ayodhya excavations despite the tension in the town following a constable’s death last evening and subsequent violence by his colleagues.

Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel, deputed for security of the acquired land, went on the rampage after one of their colleagues fell off a watch tower and died. Blaming police top brass for constable R.K. Tewari’s death, they attacked senior officials and set fire to government vehicles. “This was the first of incident of its kind in the last 30 years,” said Faizabad commissioner R.M. Srivastava.

Uttar Pradesh principal secretary (home) Prabhat Kumar, who attended a high-level meeting in Ayodhya, said the entire 35th battalion of the constabulary — whose members had staged last night’s near revolt — had been shifted out and a magisterial inquiry ordered.

“Ayodhya is fast returning to normality,” he claimed. “But we are beefing up security since large crowds are expected there tomorrow on the occasion of Ram Navami.”

Away from the turbulent temple town, the Allahabad High Court special bench dealing with Ayodhya cases today allowed the ASI five more weeks to complete the excavations. It asked the ASI to submit its next progress report by April 28 with details of how much work has been completed and what remained to be done.

The court also directed the state government to ensure adequate representation of Muslims in the excavation workforce. “If there is any problem in getting adequate number of Muslims to work at the site, the government can take help from the Sunni Central Waqf Board,” the court said.

The court asked the litigants not to come to it with petty complaints. “You can approach the two court observers appointed to supervise the excavation … and come to us only when you are still unsatisfied,” it said.

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