Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi/Lucknow: A day after the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh cracked down on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad`s (VHP) `Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Yatra` in Ayodhya, the saffron outfit held protests at several place on Monday.
VHP activists gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and protested against the UP government`s crackdown. Police had to use water cannons to disperse the protesters.
There were protests at several other places in Uttar Pradesh as well.
Also, the VHP has called a shutdown in Ayodhya today.
On Sunday, senior VHP leaders Pravin Togadia and Ashok Singhal were among around 1,700 people arrested in the massive crackdown aimed at foiling the defiant saffron outfit`s controversial yatra that was banned over fears of communal flare-up.
Starting on Sunday, the planned `Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Yatra` was to have lasted till September 13 criss-crossing six districts of Uttar Pradesh. Following the crackdown, it was symbolically launched by the saffron outfit in Ayodhya.
Togadia was arrested from Ayodhya while Singhal was taken into custody at Lucknow airport, as Ayodhya turned into a fortress wrapped in a huge security blanket.
As a cat-and-mouse game was played out in Ayodhya with VHP leaders sneaking out from hideouts to start their yatra defying a ban and trying to dodge the security personnel in hot pursuit, Togadia, who was hiding in Kale Ram temple on the banks of Saryu river, was arrested as he came out.
"In the state, 1,696 persons including Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, have been arrested in the crackdown," IG, Law and Order, RK Vishwakarma, told reporters in Lucknow.
He said that all those arrested will be in judicial custody for the next 14 days and not be released as of now. Temporary jails have also been set up to house the arrested.
Singhal, who arrived from New Delhi with Swamy Ram Bhadracharya, was arrested when he insisted on visiting Ayodhya, officials said in Lucknow.
Soon after his arrest from Golaghat area in Ayodhya, Togadia had said demonstrations would be staged all over the country on Monday against the ban by the UP government on the `Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Yatra`.
"This is not a political yatra but a religious one and ban or oppression resorted to by the government would not be tolerated at any cost," he told reporters.
Earlier, setting the stage for a confrontation with the UP government, Nritya Gopal Das of Ram Janmbhoomi Trust symbolically inaugurated the yatra by walking ten steps outside his temple before he was detained.
"We have inaugurated the yatra. But this yatra should not be politicised. It is carried out all 12 months (not time bound)," Gopaldas said.
Besides Togadia and Singhal, the administration arrested over 500 people including former union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand, Nritya Gopal Das of Ram Janmbhoomi Trust, a former BJP MP Ram Vilas Vedanti and sitting MLA Ram Chandra Yadav.
(With PTI inputs)