Security forces have been put on high alert around the temple town of Ayodhya and section 144, which prohibits unlawful assembly, is in place, said officials who added only seers and saints would be allowed to participate in the ritual. Unlike the '84-kosi Parikrama' in August when the state government banned the ritual and arrested hundreds of saints and VHP activists, this time no preventive arrests have been made, an official said.

The official added the security personnel have been asked to maintain peace at all costs. The formal start of the ritual was done on Sunday at the Karsevakpuram by the holding of a 'yagna' in which Gods were propitiated to ensure that the VHP's "resolve of building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is fulfilled".

The Yagna was conducted as per Hindu traditions by Mata Gyaneshwari, Swami Anand Saraswati and Gyaneshwaranand. Sharad Sharma, VHP's regional spokesman, said that the yatra was being undertaken in the temple town solely with the purpose of their desire for a Ram temple. Tarkeshwar Singh, a police official, said the security arrangements were adequate.

Officials said that the 'panch kosi yatra' was an annual ritual and the state government did not want to be seen as meddling with day-today affairs of any community and hence decided to wait and watch. "The participation of VHP and other groups has certainly been banned but the annual ritual is to go on unhindered," a district official said.


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