Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 5 News List

India braces for violence at Hindu rallies


Hundreds of paramilitary soldiers were deployed to a troubled town in northern India where Hindu nationalists planned to hold rallies today to mark the day eleven years ago when activists demolished a 16th-century mosque.

Soldiers arrived in Ayodhya town from other parts of Uttar Pradesh state, according to V.K.V. Nair, the director-general of police.

"We are taking no chances and have tightened security around Ayodhya," Nair said.

The Muslim community has decided to close shops today to prevent violence, said Mohammed Yunus Siddiqi, the chairman of the Ayodhya-Faizabad Babri Mosque Action Committee.

The committee favors rebuilding the razed mosque at its original site. A mob of Hindu hard-liners demolished the 16th-century Babri Mos-que on Dec. 6, 1992, sparking vicious Hindu-Muslim violence that killed at least 2,000 people throughout India.

The World Hindu Council, campaigning to build a Hindu temple where the mosque stood, said it will observe Dec. 6 as "Valor Day."

"Public rallies will be held at the village level and on the outskirts of Ayodhya to galvanize people's support in the temple movement," said a council spokesman.

Hindus revere Ayodhya as the birthplace of the god Rama, and many believe the mosque stood on an even older temple marking the exact spot where Rama was born.

The High Court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh's capital, has heard legal arguments for decades as to which religious community owns the land.

Residents of Ayodhya have demanded a solution to the dispute.

"We are fed up with this drama from Hindu and Muslim organizations," said V.N. Arora, a teacher.

"Common people have to bear the brunt as, on every Dec. 6, fundamentalists from both communities vie with each other to win sym-pathy and media coverage," he said.

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