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Atal target of Ayodhya crossfire

Lucknow, Oct. 13: As several VHP leaders went underground in preparation for the October 17 Ayodhya march, the Prime Minister came under pressure from both sides.

Amid the continuing statewide crackdown on VHP supporters, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav rued the lack of help from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to help prevent a showdown. “As custodian of the disputed Ayodhya premises, the Centre has a constitutional obligation to prevent violation of (the) high court’s and (the) Supreme Court’s orders,” he said.

Late tonight, Union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand said in Delhi the Centre would extend all possible help. “We have given 105” companies of paramilitary forces against the state’s demand of 100, he said.

The VHP matched Mulayam Singh’s pressure tactic at a Delhi media conference which coincided with celebrations marking the entry of the Vajpayee government into its fifth year.

Agar CRPF ki goli Ram bhakton ke chhati pe chali, to Atal Bihari Vajpayee ne hi unko chalaya. Unko yeh desh ko batana padega (If the CRPF fires on Ram’s devotees, it will be on Vajpayee’s instruction. He will then owe an explanation to the country),” Praveen Togadia said.

His colleagues, however, went underground to evade arrest. VHP sources said senior leaders would sneak into Ayodhya and resurface on Friday. The outfit’s local representatives were told to fan out in villages to avoid detection.

VHP media in-charge Sharad Kumar said his outfit was committed to going ahead with the “darshan” when over 100,000 supporters would visit eight temples in Ayodhya.

More VHP workers were picked up today in Kanpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Basti. Altogether, over 10,000 have been detained across the state in makeshift jails at colleges, schools and bus depots.

Over 75 companies of the CRPF arrived to strengthen the hands of state police. Inspector-general of police (Lucknow zone) V.. Rai said most of the central forces would be deployed in Lucknow and Ayodhya.

Police sources said forces on the India-Nepal border were put on alert after 50 Ayodhya-bound Nepalese devotees were detained in Bahraich district yesterday. Efforts were on to send them home. The state’s porous border with Nepal at Maharajganj, Siddharthanagar, Gonda and Lakhimpur Kheri are easy targets for influx.

The heavy security, however, failed to impress the residents of Ayodhya as they hit out at the VHP. The former ruler of Ayodhya, Vimlendra Mohan Pratap Singh, said: “Ever since outsiders started interfering in the matter (the temple dispute), our life has become difficult.”

“As elections approach, the VHP’s love for Ayodhya has increased,” said Ved Prakash Gupta, the Udyog Vyapar Mandal’s Faizabad city chief. ( )

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