The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VHP arrest in Andhra splits allies

March 17: Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Praveen Togadia was taken into preventive custody today as he was on his way to a public meeting of the “Hindu Ranabheri” at Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh.

The state police released him within hours after Andhra Pradesh High Court set aside the orders of a subdivisional police officer of Anantpur.

The rally, denied permission by the state government, was allowed by Justice C.Y. Somayajulu on the condition that VHP organising secretary G. Satyanarayana Reddy would take responsibility to ensure there was no “threat to the peace and tranquillity” of Anantpur town during and after the rally.

Justice Somayajulu also ordered the meeting to be wound up before 8.30 pm. He passed the order on a petition by the VHP organising secretary.

An angry BJP warned its ally, the Telugu Desam Party, that its action “will create unnecessary tension”. BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said states should not restrict religious and social functions “for political reasons”.

Bajrang Dal workers, led by Delhi unit chief Tapan Kumar, reacted to the arrest by vandalising Andhra Bhavan in New Delhi. Police said a mob of 50 broke the main gate and smashed cars in the premises. They fled when the police arrived.

VHP international working president Ashok Singhal warned that “any attempt to impose the concept of Hindu-Muslim fraternity vis-à-vis Hindutva will backfire and such governments will be brought to their sense”.

Togadia was arrested this morning at Chimalthur village, 120 km from Anantpur, when he entered Andhra from Bangalore. Reddy and 100 volunteers, too, were taken into custody.

Togadia was later moved to the Penugonda guesthouse. After his release in the afternoon, Togadia proceeded to Anantpur town under heavy police escort.

Earlier, state home minister T. Devender Gowd said in the Assembly that the government had refused permission to the VHP rally on grounds of “law and order”.

Togadia, he said, was making provocative speeches wherever he went and hence “we have taken precaution as the district is already agitated over communal innuendoes in a Telugu film”.

The leader of the BJP in the Assembly, Indrasena Reddy, accused the state of withdrawing permission under pressure after granting it earlier. “The police are unnecessarily creating tension by withholding permission. This is a democratic country and all organisations have a right to hold rallies and express their views,” PTI quoted him as saying.

Angry over the arrest, the Maharashtra unit of the VHP said the action was “aimed at appeasement of Muslims”. “Have Hindus even lost the right to speech'” Maharashtra VHP general secretary Vynkatesh Abdev said.

“The (high) court order,” said Abdev in a statement, “makes it clear that Togadia’s voice cannot be suppressed.”

The VHP has scheduled a series of public meetings in Kurnool, Cuddapah and Anantpur towns as part of its campaign over Ayodhya and to unite Hindus for the purpose.

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