1.41 pm: VHP to protest arrest of leaders
Even as the Uttar Pradesh police declared that the VHP's yatra has been 'completely foiled', Sharad Sharma, VHP press secretary announced they will continue their protests tomorrow. "We will hold protests tomorrow across Faizabad against the arrest of our leaders," said Sharma.
"As per the route of the yatra, saints were supposed to cross 40 points in and around Faizabad district. They successfully did that and in the process, more than 2,000 saints courted arrest. Around 150 saints were arrested only in Faizabad. Tomorrow, we will do a nation wide stir at administrative units across the country to protest the arrest of saints and seers."
Meanwhile, CNN IBN reported that VHP supporters of Singhal have refused to leave Lucknow airport where the leader was arrested.
11.35 am: Digvijaya cries 'match fixing'
As the UP government versus VHP drama unfolded, Digvijaya Singh jumped right into the controversy suggesting that what is happening in the temple-town might be a fixed political match. Taking potshots at Congress' blow hot-blow cold ally SP and adversary VHP at the same time, Singh suggested that the Ayodhya incident was just one for show, allowing each party to fake sympathy for their followers.
Match Fixing in Ayodhya ?
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) August 25, 2013
11.17 am: Ashok Singhal detained in Lucknow airport
As expected, VHP leader Ashok Singhal was detained in Lucknow airport on his way to Ayodhya. Singhal was well-aware that he would be arrested if he tried to mobilise the yatra, but he still went ahead. Earlier in the day he had questioned why the government was infringing on their right.
ANI tweeted a picture of Singhal being detained:
VHP Yatra: VHP leader Ashok Singhal detained at Lucknow airport. pic.twitter.com/nMX1q96X1m
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 25, 2013
11.02 am: What VHP can't do on the ground, they do on Twitter!
With the Samajwadi Party-led government on its way to squashing the VHP's ambitious 'chaurasi kosi yatra', patrons and sympathisers of the Parishad have taken to Twitter to voice their support for the yatra. The result? The handle #JaiShriRam trending on Twitter!
Several VHP supporters have voiced their displeasure on Twitter, using the hashtag. Some of them blame the Congress' 'secular' politics behind the derailing of the yatra, others call out for protests.
The VHP's official site seems to have sparked the trend when they posted a tweet asking people to support the yatra.
— SanghParivar.Org (@SanghParivarOrg) August 25, 2013
Fans of Subhramanian Swamy have created a twitter handle and using the hashtag, they expressed their wish to see Singhal and his followers 'demolish illegal structures'
Eager for the moment when Ashokji singhal-led Hindus will demolish illegal structures on Mathura-Janmbhumi & Kashi-Vishwanath. #JaiShriRam
— Swamy Sena (@swamy_sena) August 25, 2013
10.30 am: More VHP leaders court arrest
After Togadia courted arrest, reports that some 200 sadhus have willingly courted arrest came in. Along with them Ram Vilas Das Vedanti, senior member of the Ram Janm Bhoomi trust and a prominent right wing leader in the holy city was also arrested. Police was seen chasing many sadhus who had gathered at the ghats to participate in the procession.
MLA Ram Charan Yadav has also been arrested by the police.
10.15 am: An uneasy calm has descended on Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh after the Samajwadi Party clamped down on the the VHP supporters making sure that their 'chaurasi kosi' yatra doesn't take off easily. According to reports on CNN IBN, at least 50 senior VHP leaders have already been arrested or placed under house arrest and senior VHP leader Ashok Singhal might be arrested later in the day today. One hundred and fifty people were arrested in Ayodhya today.
VHP ideologue Pravin Togadia has been taken into preventive custody already.
Reporting from Ayodhya, CNN IBN said that a strong security cordon has been placed near ghats along the Sarayu river. Except for officials from the state administration and media personnel. not many people are being allowed anywhere near the ghats. The yatra was slated to take off after a ritual and a puja in one of these ghats.
Speaking to reporters, Singhal questioned SP's motives behind stopping the yatra. "Why are they stopping us. Things like this used to happen in the Moghul sultanate in the past when we didn't have the freedom to pursue our religion. Is this a Moghul sultanate? This is not a political rally. This is a religious yatra," said Singhal, adding that he is ready to court arrest if needed.
However, with the government tightening its grip on the proceedings, no news of a big confrontation has come in yet. With 8,000 police personnel and paramilitary forces, most of the yatra enthusiasts have been safely pushed back to their homes and ashrams. CNN IBN reported that some 50 people had tried to force their way ahead but was stopped by the security forces and sent back.
The Uttar Pradesh borders too have been alerted and groups of people have been denied entry into the state. IANS reported that fifty ascetics from Rajasthan headed, by bus, to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to undertake the 84-kosi parikrama were arrested around midnight at the Chauma Shahpur border and sent to jail temporarily.
Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur said the ascetics will be lodged for a while at the police lines in Agra.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has been spearheading the movement, said 200 ascetics from Rajasthan began their journey Friday. So far, 64 of them have been arrested.
All borders have been sealed and vehicles are being screened to prevent people from undertaking the march, planned by the VHP to press for the resumption of religious activities at the contested Ayodhya site believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The local administration has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and asked people who have assembled for the march from Aug 22 to leave the area.
Agencies reported that passengers on Lucknow- and Faizabad-bound trains would be frisked. A curfew has been already placed in Ayodhya and Faizabad and several other districts along the UP border.
Earlier on, Firstpost reported on the security arrangements:
“Ten temporary jails have been built and around 50 preventive arrests have happened in Faizabad district since yesterday. We are basically ensuring that the normal life does not get affected,” said Vipin Kumar Dwivedi, district magistrate, Faizabad.
However, both the SP and the VHP sympathisers BJP will not give up on the yatra easily as the political stakes are high. Firstpost's political editor Sanjay Singh noted how SP stands to gain from stopping the yatra:
The move of Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav is being called a brilliant political action to polarize the Muslim votes in their favour or not to let members of Muslim community think of the Congress as an alternate when Narendra Modi is BJP’s undeclared prime ministerial candidate.
What remains to be seen is if SP's defiance pushes more Hindu votes towards BJP and turns fence sitters into voters of the Hindutva franchise.