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Friday, December 4, 1998
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Court orders to be obeyed: Advani

NEW DELHI, Dec 3 (PTI) — The Centre will ensure that court orders on maintaining the unique character of the religious shrine near Chikmaglur in Karnataka are complied with, Home Minister L.K. Advani assured the Lok Sabha today.

"The Government of India and the state Government of Karnataka are keen that nothing should be done to disturb the present character of this religious shrine, which is a part of our rich secular heritage in the country," he said.

Mr Advani, who made a statement and later responded to concerns voiced by Opposition members, said the observance of Guru Dattatreya Jayanti started off peacefully on December 1 and passed off smoothly yesterday.

The shrine, atop a hill 30 km from Chikmaglur, is under the control of the Religious and Charitable Endowment Department of the State Government. Both Hindus and Muslims regard the shrine as sacred and it was a unique example of Hindu-Muslim harmony, he told the members.

The minister’s statement came after Opposition members expressed serious concern over the reported rath yatra proposed to be undertaken by the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists to "liberate" the shrine.

Mr Advani observed that Muslims visited the shrine dedicated to Saint Bababudanagiri throughout the year. They also celebrate urs at the site three days every year in the month of Rabi-ul-Avval, the third month of the Islamic calendar.

For the Hindus, this is the shrine of Guru Dattatreya and they accordingly call it Dattatreya Peetha. A large number of Hindus observe Dattatreya Jayanti every year at the site during Kartik Poornima celebrations and also during other festivals.

The minister said an attempt was made some time back to have it declared as Wakf property but the Supreme Court had ruled in 1991 that the shrine did not belong to the Wakf Board.

To maintain peace in the region, the Karnataka Government has this year made elaborate arrangements. Prohibitory orders have been imposed by the District Magistrate from December 1 to 7 in the town within a radius of 5 km and around the shrine within a radius of 10 km, he said.

"All precautionary measures, including deployment of state reserve platoons and also the central police force, have been taken," he assured the members.

BABABUDANAGIRI (Karnataka): Tension prevailed in and around the cave shrine of Bababudanagiri, with some miscreants indulging in stone-throwing, even as thousands of Bajrang Dal and VHP activists offered prayers at Sri Baba- budanagiri Dattatreya Dargah, a Sufi shrine, where both Hindus and Muslims have been offering worship.

However, timely intervention by the police brought the situation under control.

The three-day celebrations, which began on Tuesday, became controversial this year with the VHP and Bajrang Dal announcing their intention to "liberate" the shrine on the ground that it was a Hindu place of worship.

Heavy security arrangements have been made in the area with a platoon of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), besides platoons of the State Reserve Police and the CRPF deployed to maintain law and order, Inspector-General of Police (West range) Bhosle told UNI here today.

Bajrang Dal President Prakash Sharma said they had given up the idea of liberating the shrine and instead given one-year time to the Karnataka Government to liberate it.

The five rath yatras organised by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal from various parts of Karnataka reached the cave shrine yesterday.

The yatris, who converged on Chikmaglur, reached the shrine last night. The shrine was heavily guarded and devotees were frisked. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in a 10-km radius of the shrine.

VHP and Bajrang Dal activists claimed that they had been taking out peaceful yatras every year and blamed the media for giving bad publicity to the yatra this year.

The controversy arose after BJP leader Ananth Kumar Hegde, MP, announced that he would lead a suicide squad to "liberate" the shrine. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal were demanding that dargah head Syed Peer Mohammed Sheikh Khadri be removed, Hindus be allowed to perform puja at the peetha, the saffron flag be hoisted there and the tombs of the priest’s relatives around the shrine be removed.

The Karnataka High Court had yesterday directed the state government to take steps to preserve the sanctity of the shrine.

Meanwhile, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal today denied that they had planned to liberate the Bababudangiri cave shrine, a place of worship for both Hindus and Muslims.

Bajrang Dal secretary Prakash Sharma denied the reports that they wanted to "liberate" the Hindu-Muslim shrine. However, "we want an inquiry into missing trishul and kamandal from the shrine, which has become the personal property of a single person", he alleged.

A senior District Administration official, talking to UNI, claimed that the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had dropped the idea of liberating the shrine, seeing the lukewarm response.back


Sheila Dikshit sworn in Delhi CM
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 3 — The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Ms Sheila Dikshit, was today sworn in as the first Congress woman Chief Minister of Delhi.

The Lt-Governor, Mr Vijai Kapoor, administered oath of office and secrecy to Ms Dikshit and her six Cabinet colleagues, including a Sikh and a woman, at a ceremony in Raj Niwas this morning.

Sixty-year-old Ms Dikshit is Congress party’s second Chief Minister of Delhi, the first being Chaudhary Brahm Prakash in the early 1950s.

The six ministers are Mr Mahinder Singh Saathi, Dr A.K. Walia, Dr Narendra Nath, Mr Yoganand Sashtri, Mr Parvez Hashmi and Ms Krishna Tirath.

While Mr Saathi is a former Mayor, Dr Nath is Leader of Opposition in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Mr Sashtri, who defeated former Transport Minister Mr Rajendra Gupta in Malviya Nagar, is a lecturer in Bhagat Singh College.

While both Mr Walia and Dr Nath are medical practitioners, Ms Tirath was elected from the reserved Baljeet Nagar constituency, he represents backward classes and Mr Hashmi represents the minority dominated Okhla seat.

"Only educated persons with a clean and honest image have been made ministers and they represent all sections of the society," Delhi Chief Minister said while explaining the criteria which determined the choice of her Cabinet colleagues.

The portfolios would be announced in a day or two, Ms Dikshit said, adding that she was trying to allocate the ministries in a "scientific and systematic manner" to streamline the administration.

Former Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chiefs Prem Singh and Deep Chand Bandhu and senior leader Tajdar Babar, although tipped to become ministers, did not find a place among those sworn in today. Moreover, two parliamentary constituencies do not have any representation in the Cabinet, while South and East Delhi have two ministers each.

According to the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, the Cabinet cannot be more than 10 per cent of the strength of the Assembly. Since Delhi has a 70-member Assembly, the strength of the Cabinet, including the Chief Minister, cannot exceed seven.

Except for Mr Sashtri, who took the oath in Sanskrit and Mr Hashmi, in English, Ms Dikshit and other ministers took the oath in Hindi. Slogans like "Sonia Gandhi zindabad" and "Congress zindabad" rent the air as new ministers took oath.

  Addressing newspersons soon after taking office, the Delhi Chief Minister clad in a cream coloured silk sari with a dark blue border, said, "Peace, progress and cooperation would be the hallmarks of my government."

Asked about the priorities of the government, Delhi Chief Minister said in a city like Delhi there were several burning issues, be it transport, rising prices, law and order, power and water supply, all these needed attention.

"Give me some time. I promise that the people of Delhi, who have given a huge mandate, would notice the difference in a few months," a confident Ms Dikshit said.

On the spiralling prices of essential commodities, which proved to be the major cause for the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the November 25 poll, Ms Dikshit said, "I have already summoned a meeting of senior officials of the Civil Supplies Ministry to discuss the situation."

The Chief Minister warned that the government would not fight shy of taking strong action against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

Stating that the law and order situation in the Capital was "very serious", she said that she had already sought an appointment with the Union Home Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, to discuss the matter.

"I will seek and give cooperation to make the lives of Delhiites better. We will not adopt a confrontationist attitude," Ms Dikshit said when asked how she would handle the law and order situation when the Delhi police was with the Centre.

On the question of full statehood, which promises to give land and law and order to the Delhi Government, Ms Dikshit said, "this is not an urgent issue. Major problems needed to be tackled first. The question of statehood can wait."

"Instead of clamouring for more powers, we would like to do the maximum possible with the existing power," she said.

Of the 69 seats contested, the Congress won 51 and the BJP 15. Two seats went to Congress rebels who contested as Independents while one was claimed by the Janata Dal. Polling in the Nangloi Jat seat was postponed following the killing of Samata Party candidate Ved Singh during campaigning.

With 42 newcomers, nine women and a 28-year-old legislator, the Assembly this time will be a lot more glamorous and young. Out of the 51 Congress legislators, 36 are new and among the BJP’s 15 members of the House, five are new.

Not only the number of women legislatures has increased, but the number of Sikh MLAs has gone up to six from a lone member in 1993.

The swearing-in ceremony was witnessed by a host of dignitaries, including Union Urban Development Minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, outgoing Chief Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Cabinet colleagues, former Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma, Vijay Goel, Chandni Chowk MP, Delhi Police Commissioner, Mr V.N. Singh, senior Congress leaders M.L. Fotedar, Mohsina Kidwai, Ambika Soni and Delhi unit leaders, Sajjan Kumar, H.K.L. Bhagat and Jag Pravesh Chandra.back

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