| ‘Ram sevaks’ board a train for Ayodhya at Ahmedabad. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Oct. 14: Under pressure from the RSS and the VHP, the Centre has informed Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav that it would not be possible to divert trains passing through Faizabad-Ayodhya ahead of the VHP congregation on October 17.
Home ministry sources said Mulayam Singh has been told to use central forces deployed in the region “judiciously and selectively to deal only with law and order problems” and not to “harass” the “Ram bhakts” coming to Ayodhya.
As a quid pro quo, the VHP is believed to have assured the RSS that it was considering shifting the venue of its sankalp sabha (oath-taking meeting) to the Ram Sevak Puram complex, which is a “safe” 3 km away from the Ramjnamabhoomi-Babri complex.
The original plan was to assemble at the “disputed” site from where the “Ram bhakts” were to chant Ram dhun and take a pledge to construct the temple.
On the Centre’s behalf, sources said, the RSS was prevailing on the VHP leaders to also see to it that the “Ram bhakts” offered prayers at the Ram Lalla temple in small groups.
Swami Chinmayanand, the minister of state for home, was tasked to deal with the VHP and its clergy in his capacity as a former member of the temple steering committee.
After Chinmayanand learnt of the possible climbdown in the VHP’s stance, he advised its leaders to seek the administration’s permission so that there would be no hitch in holding the meeting in the new venue because prohibitory orders were in force in Faizabad district.
Mulayam Singh is learnt to have assured Chinmayanand that he would have no problem in granting the VHP permission if it kept its word and did not break into the “disputed” area.
A day after VHP leader Praveen Togadia accused the Prime Minister of colluding with Mulayam Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee went into a huddle with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, finance minister Jaswant Singh and BJP president M.Venkaiah Naidu.
They assessed Togadia’s warning that communal riots could erupt if the “Ram bhakts” were stopped on their tracks.
RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan spoke to Vajpayee last evening, urging the Prime Minister not to divert the trains and arrest the “Ram bhakts”. Sudarshan also sought the release of those kept in detention.
“If these demands are fulfilled, he assured the Prime Minister that the VHP’s programme would pass off peacefully,” an RSS source said.
“But if they are not and something untoward happens, the Uttar Pradesh government will have to shoulder the responsibility,” he added.
With the VHP working president Ashok Singhal and his deputy, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, going “underground”, Chinmayanand was in touch with Ramjnamabhoomi Nyas chairman Nritya Gopal Das and the convener of the high-powered Uchchadhikar Ram Mandir Nirman Samiti, Mahant Avaidyanath. Both are camping in Ayodhya.
Chinmayanand reportedly told Mulayam Singh that it was not possible to divert the trains because of the large traffic of pilgrims to Ayodhya and the inconvenience a diversion would cause to traders in the “peak” business season.
Sources close to him said his line of reasoning with the VHP was that Uttar Pradesh traders would not take kindly to disruptions during Diwali and, if there were any, “these would be counterproductive for the temple movement”.