The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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War cry in bandh silence

Ahmedabad, Sept. 26: Gujarat was largely peaceful during today’s bandh, barring stray incidents of stabbing in Surat, even as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stepped up its campaign against “anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim forces” and called for slicing Pakistan into 40 pieces.

Claiming that its bandh call evoked overwhelming response, VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia said Hindus had expressed their grief by supporting the strike.

Slipping into an anti-Pakistan harangue, he said the time had come for India to assert itself by attacking Pakistan which was the epicentre of terrorism. Unless India made the move, there would be no end to the repeated militant attacks in the country. Togadia said the VHP’s ultimate aim was to march on Rawalpindi and Lahore.

He also slammed “pseudo-secularist and pro-Muslim” parties for playing games for 54 years and promoting “Islamic terrorism”. The successful bandh, he said, was a last warning to all parties. “Secular and pro-Muslim parties have no place in India. They should go to Pakistan which has taken it upon itself to give lessons on secularism.”

The success of the bandh shows people have a clear understanding of the “right path” the country should take. Any party that tried to be a barrier to that path would be consigned to the dustbin of history, he added.

Pointing out that 7,000 securitymen have lost their lives fighting terrorism, the VHP leader stressed the need for permanent military deployment in Gujarat as the 56,000-strong police force was inadequate to protect 5 crore people from militant attacks.

Togadia said the bandh was peaceful because no party had opposed it. Political observers attributed the relative calm to the fact that not only were the hardliners of the Narendra Modi camp on a leash, but the government bent over backwards to ensure that nothing would jeopardise its poll prospects.

The bandh was near-total in Gujarat. Police, paramilitary and army personnel maintained tight vigil . Shops and business establishment remained closed. Shops that had opened in the morning pulled down shutters after VHP activists intervened.

In Surat, where two stabbing incidents were reported, the response to the bandh was spontaneous. Army and Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed in sensitive areas even as the army patrolled the city. Bajrang Dal activists attacked a driver of the Surat Municipal Corporation in the sensitive Udhna area and another person at Katgram.

In Baroda, the bandh was total and peaceful. Three columns of the army, one company of the CRPF and five companies of the State Reserve Police were deployed in the city. Most of the shops were closed but banks kept their shutters half-open while a holiday was declared in educational institutions.

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