The Uttar Pradesh police on Sunday morning arrested Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders Ramvilas Vedanti and Praveen Togadia from the banks of the river Saryu in Ayodhya for defying the state-government ban on their yatra or Chaurasi Kosi parikrama as the state government cracked down on the saffron group.
Senior VHP leader Ashok Sinhal was also stopped from going to Ayodhya from Lucknow airport. He was detained and reportedly arrested there at the airport and could be sent back to New Delhi.
Besides the top leaders of VHP, around 350 activists of the saffron body have also been arrested and police have warned of arresting those who will participate in the yatra.
Vedanti, who had threatened to lead the state-government banned yatra, had been sitting on the river banks from 3 am and was spotted when he got up to remove a saffron cloth he had wrapped around him, reports said.
Police thereafter arrested him and drove him away from the protest area.
Togadia was also arrested for praying on the river banks.
It seems a political battle has erupted between the VHP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) led government, as the former has decided to defy the ban imposed by the state government on the yatra.
Meanwhile, VHP leader Ashok Singhal has been detained at the Lucknow airport.
According to reports, Singhal has been asked to return back to New Delhi in order to stop him from participating in the yatra.
The tension erupted following Akhilesh Yadav´s denial for the VHP yatra in the state that was scheduled to start from Sunday. The proposed yatra, whose fate is under a heavy cloak of security, was scheduled to continue till September 13.
While flag marches by security personnel were being carried out since Saturday, prohibitory laws like Section 144 has been invoked in six districts of Faizabad, Basti, Barabanki, Gonda, Bahraich and Ambedkar Nagar.
Reports said 8,000 police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in the Ayodhya region additionally besides the usual yearlong 1,600 paramilitary men stationed there.
During the proposed yatra, the VHP, which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had planned to renew its campaign for the construction of a Ram temple at the long disputed Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya.
A senior UP official told media that the yatra was denied as it would have violated the directives of the Supreme Court.
VHP leaders had earlier met UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to seek administrative support for the proposed 300 km yatra of saints to Ayodhya, called the Chaurasi Kosi parikrama.
The yatra was discontinued about 50 years ago and has not been held since.