The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sudden death for VHP sound and fury

New Delhi, Feb. 24: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s protest march to Parliament did not begin with a bang but certainly ended in a whimper.

Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia, Acharya Dharmendra and the sadhus who threatened to “gherao” Parliament yesterday tamely gave up the plan today at Parliament Street, half a kilometre from their “target”.

The fire-spitting leaders did not even try to court arrest at the end of the three-hour demonstration that was billed as a “major show of strength”.

But to sustain the impression that they meant “business” on their demands for a Ram temple and the return of the “undisputed” Ayodhya land, the VHP leaders spewed anti-government rhetoric, targeting even the Prime Minister and his deputy.

They chanted the trademark “Jai Shri Ram” to the sound of conchshells though the protest appeared to be just another in a series of VHP’s blow-hot-blow-cold tactics.

The sadhus were reportedly all fired up for a showdown with the police but the RSS had counselled restraint, mainly because the case was still in the Supreme Court.

The VHP fell in line this time after it was told that its agitational posture last year might have prompted the apex court to ban the shiladaan in Ayodhya.

The sizeable number of VHP leaders and Bajrang Dal activists, armed with tridents and conchshells, today marched till Parliament Street police station, a stone’s throw from Parliament, where security forces stopped them.

The sadhus and activists, from as far away as the northeast and Karnataka as also the cow belt, waved placards and shouted slogans demanding immediate construction of the Ram temple.

Two trucks were parked close to make a makeshift podium for the religious leaders to address the gathering on the third and concluding day of the VHP’s dharma sansad.

Most speakers dubbed the ongoing agitation as the “final religious war” in their effort to get the Ayodhya temple built.

VHP’s Praveen Togadia warned “every village would be turned into Ayodhya” if the temple was not allowed. He said if the sants decided to build a temple, then Hindus would get come to the streets to ensure that it happened, irrespective of the consequences.

Togadia wanted to know why the Centre couldn’t hand over the “disputed” land in Ayodhya for temple construction if the Congress could amend the Constitution to give minority status to Aligarh Muslim University.

He urged the Congress and other political parties to support the cause of the temple and promised a two-thirds majority in Parliament to any party that stepped forward.

“We don’t hate you (Congress). We love all those who love Ram Lalla,” Togadia said.

Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Paramhansa Ramchandradas said he would intensify his agitation from March 5, “a day ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on the temple issue”, and continue till March 25, irrespective of the apex court’s decision.

VHP international general-secretary Ashok Singhal said the problem lay in secularism. “It’s an Islam rajya (in India), not a Hindu rajya,” he said while urging Hindus to unite to strengthen the community. “We have not been able to portray our terror. That is why politicians are taking the help of Muslims to reach Parliament,” he said.

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