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India convulsed by sectarian violence after Muslim attack on disputed temple

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  • Zafar Khan
    India convulsed by sectarian violence after Muslim attack on disputed temple By Justin Huggler in Delhi Published: 07 July 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2005
      India convulsed by sectarian violence after Muslim
      attack on disputed temple
      By Justin Huggler in Delhi
      Published: 07 July 2005


      Hindu hardliners stormed an airport and attacked a
      Muslim shrine as angry protests spread across India
      following an attempted militant attack on the
      country's most disputed religious site, the Ram temple
      in Ayodhya.

      Six people were injured in violent clashes between
      Muslims and Hindus in the eastern city of Ranchi. In
      Delhi, police had to use tear gas and water cannons to
      disperse an angry crowd of 1,000 Hindu protesters led
      by the leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata
      Party (BJP), Lal Krishna Advani.

      There are fears that the attempted attack in Ayodhya
      could set off clashes between Hindus and Muslims like
      those in 1992, when more than 3,000 people died after
      Hindu extremists tore down a 16th-century mosque on
      the site. At least 2,000 more died in riots in Gujarat
      in 2002 that started after Hindu pilgrims visiting the
      site died in a train fire believed to have been
      started by Muslims.

      Mobs of Hindu vigilantes roamed the streets of Ayodhya
      yesterday to enforce a strike called by the BJP,
      threatening shopkeepers who did not put their shutters
      down. The authorities ordered a partial curfew in the
      city to prevent clashes.

      In the central city of Indore, around 200 protesters
      from the far-right World Hindu Council stormed the
      domestic airport, forcing their way in through a
      police cordon. The protesters wanted to enforce the
      strike, and managed to hold up a Delhi-bound flight
      for an hour, before they were overpowered by police
      reinforcements. The protesters smashed up the
      airport's VIP lounge, and police made more than 40

      Elsewhere, Hindu extremists blocked trains on several
      major routes by sitting on the lines.

      Yesterday's protests came after six militants broke
      into the heavily guarded complex in Ayodhya armed with
      assault rifles and hand grenades. The attack was
      thwarted by security forces who killed the militants
      in a two-hour gun battle before they could damage the
      site or kill any Hindu pilgrims. The scale of the
      response is testament to how high passions run over
      the disputed site. Many Hindus believe it to be the
      birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most powerful Hindu
      gods. Hindu extremists alleged that the 16th-century
      Babri mosque, which stood there until 13 years ago,
      was built on the site of an earlier Hindu temple. In
      1992 a Hindu mob tore down the mosque. Today a
      makeshift temple stands on the site, but hardliners
      want to build a permanent temple in its place. India's
      Muslims have mounted a legal battle against the plans,
      and it has gone to the Supreme Court.

      The militants behind Tuesday's attack have not yet
      been identified, but it is widely assumed in India
      they were Muslim. There have been several reports that
      Indian security forces suspect Lashkar-e Toiba, a
      militant group based in Pakistan, was behind the

      "Down, down Pakistan," the crowds in Delhi chanted,
      and there are concerns the attack may derail the peace
      process between India and Pakistan. The Indian
      government has insisted it will not, and has been
      careful not to link the attack to Pakistan, as
      previous Indian governments have done with past
      attacks. But Hindu right-wing parties have accused
      Pakistan of involvement.

      The destruction of the Babri mosque and the wave of
      killing it unleashed has come back to haunt India. The
      BJP leader Mr Advani said that the attack had brought
      the Ayodhya movement back to the forefront of Indian
      politics, and vowed that a permanent temple would soon
      be built on the site - regardless of the decision of
      the Supreme Court. "The Ram temple will be constructed
      at Ram Janmabhoomi. If the Supreme Court gives a
      favourable verdict, it is good. Otherwise, this will
      be done after talks," he said.

      Yet even as he spoke, another court was ordering that
      he must stand trial for his part in inciting the mob
      that tore down the Babri mosque in 1992. The Allahabad
      High Court overturned the verdict of a lower court
      that exonerated Mr Advani in 2003. The BJP and its
      right-wing Hindu allies have seized upon the attack on
      the Ayodhya site. They were desperate for a popular
      cause to unite behind after a series of setbacks that
      began when they lost last year's general election to
      the secular Congress party and its allies.

      It was Ayodhya that first galvanised mass support for
      the BJP, and made Mr Advani into a national figure.
      But by seizing on its again, he and his allies risk
      unleashing the passions that led to 3,000 deaths in
      1992, and 2,000 more in 2002.

      Violent protests across India after attack on holy

      Randeep Ramesh, South Asia correspondent
      Thursday July 7, 2005
      The Guardian


      Hundreds of rightwing Hindu protesters stormed an
      airport in central India yesterday, preventing a
      flight from taking off in one of a series of violent
      protests across the country against an attack on a
      holy site sacred to both Hindus and Muslims.

      In Indore, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, activists of
      the World Hindu Council broke past security officers
      to storm the domestic airport. The protesters sprawled
      on the runway, blocking a New Delhi-bound flight for
      about an hour. Police eventually beat them back and
      arrested 40 people.

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