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Thursday, May 21, 1998

VHP firm on Pokharan temple, BJP silent

NEW DELHI, May 20: Defying the views expressed by BJP allies, Congress and the Left parties, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad today decided to go ahead with its plans to construct a temple at Pokhran to commemorate the recent nuclear tests.

Dedicated to Shakti (the godess of strength of power and strength), the temple, christened the `Shakti Peeth,' according to VHP general secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore, would be constructed on a private land some 50 km from the site of the recent nuclear explosions.

He, however, clarified that the temple would be constructed by the sadhu samaj and not the VHP. ``A sadhu-sant sammelan will be convened soon for this purpose,'' he pointed out.

The BJP, on its part, tried to distance itself from the VHP programme. ``We have made it clear that the party will not build any monument at Pokhran or do anything to derive political advantage from the series of tests,'' BJP general secretary M Venkaiah Naidu told media persons today.

He, however, said that there was noquestion of his party objecting to the VHP programme. ``How can we oppose any decision to construct a temple on a private piece of land located some distance away from the protected area,'' he remarked.

The VHP general secretary also lauded the Government for adopting a tough posture against Pakistan for its role in fomenting terrorism in several parts of the country.

``To end terrorism in the country, it is important that terrorism-promoting centres are set right,'' Acharya Kishore asserted. When asked specifically what he meant by this, he said Pakistan should first be given due warning but if it still persists with their activities, they should be attacked. He however, clarified that it was his personal opinion and its implementation was left to the government.

According the VHP general secretary, the temple at Pokhran, when completed, would be the 53rd shaktipeeth. ``This would be in addition to 52 shaktipeeths already existing in the country,'' he said, adding that a decision to thiseffect had already been taken and its planning would begin this year. He did not disclose any date for its completion.

``Pokhran has a special significance for the country and is an ideal place for the shaktipeeth from many angles,'' he said, ``Baba Ramdev is worshipped here for the reforms he brought about in the society, especially for waging a movement for the protection of women. The place became famous in 1974 when Indira Gandhi conducted the first nuclear test -- a feat emulated now by the Vajpayee Government.''

Congratulating the government for the will power shown not so much in conducting the first three tests but the two tests 48 hours after the first round, defying the international warnings, Acharya Kishore said: ``India is a prosperous country and will-power and hard work alone could bring it to the forefront.''

The bombs, according to him, must have been ready long ago but it was the will power of previous governments which was lacking.

On the issue of temple-construction inAyodhya, he replied: ``We demolished it in one day without notice. We will construct it similarly.'' But he refused to set a deadline for the commencement of its construction.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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