Friday, Mar 01, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
While the RSS and the BJP have supported the ``bandh'', the latter's ally in the state, the Shiv Sena, decided to support it late in the evening after a prolonged discussion among its top brass.
The earlier stand of the Sena was to let the VHP enforce the ``bandh'' since it had given the call without consulting the Sena chief, Bal Thackeray.
``But the Shiv Sena would not actively participate in the `bandh' and its activists would not join the VHP members in any picketing,'' said the Leader of the Opposition and senior Sena functionary, Narayan Rane.
Unlike the BJP, the Shiv Sena has been openly supporting the VHP's agitation. Mr. Thackeray passed the most caustic remarks against the Prime Minister for his appeal for the suspension of the agitation. ``The Hindus should not get cowed down as if they were living in Pakistan,'' he said.
The Nationalist Congress Party condemned the incident at Godhra. The party spokesman and former minister, Vasant Chavan, said that the killing of innocents could not be a way of protesting against the Ram mandir. ``But the VHP should suspend its agitation in response to the Prime Minister's appeal,'' he said fearing that the violence could spread to Maharashtra and other parts of the country.
The Maharashtra Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Boards postponed Friday's exams to March 18 and March 16 respectively in view of the `bandh', said an official press note.
Meanwhile, hundreds of VHP activists held protest meetings at different railway stations in Mumbai and elsewhere in the State to gather support for tomorrow's protest strike. The activists said that they would exempt essential services from the ``bandh'' but would not let shops and offices to open or allow private and public transport, including trains, to ply.
The Deputy Chief Minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, convened a meeting of the top police officers and reviewed the situation in the State. A Home Ministry official said the police apprehended Godhra type attacks in the State and had taken preventive measures.
Gehlot seeks PM's intervention
PTI reports from Jaipur:
The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, today asked the Prime Minister to intervene and stop the State leaderships of the BJP and the VHP from going ahead with tomorrow's ``Rajasthan bandh'' in protest against the Godhra killings.
In a letter to Mr. Vajpayee, Mr. Gehlot said the ``bandh'' could lead to communal disharmony in the State. Criticising the BJP, the Chief Minister said on the one hand the BJP-led NDA Government has asked the VHP to stop the Ayodhya stir and on the other, the party's State unit has called for a ``bandh''.
Call for Orissa bandh
The Orissa State units of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal today called for a 12-hour bandh tomorrow.
The bandh would commence at 6 a.m., a press release issued by the VHP state general secretary, Gouri Prasad Rath, and state coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, Bhuban Mohan Jena, said.
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