Compromise offer on Indian temple
NEW DELHI, India -- Indian government and religious leaders are trying to reach a resolution over the construction of a controversial temple on a site sacred to both Hindus and Muslims.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and other ministers met Muslim leaders and Hindu nationalists on Tuesday to discuss compromise deals on the planned temple at the core of recent secular violence in the western state of Gujarat that has left hundreds dead.
Prominent hard line Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) says it will put their plans on hold until a court decision on whether they can build the disputed temple in the city of Ayodhya as part of a proposal put forward by India's top Hindu leader.
The VHP has previously maintained a tough stance, campaigning to build the temple on the ruins of a 16th century Babri Muslim mosque destroyed by Hindus a decade ago amid claims that it had been built on the site of a former Hindu temple erected where Rama (a Hindu god) was born.
It says the land where it wants to begin building on March 15 is not in dispute as it was taken over by the government pending a ruling on the temple's construction.
The new proposal from the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati, who has been acting as mediator in the discussions, calls for the construction of the temple to go ahead but outside of the area where the Babri mosque once stood.
Under that deal, the VHP will await a court order on the disputed temple site while at the same time seek an undisputed area of land from the government.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has agreed to consider the proposal, the Times of India reported on Wednesday.
"Under the proposal, the VHP has agreed to construct a boundary wall outside the [mosque] area. The fate of the disputed site would be decided by a court verdict and the VHP has agreed to abide by it," board convener S. Q. R. Illyas told the Times.
His counterpart, VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore has appealed for both religious groups to resolve the dispute.
"I appeal to Muslim brothers to stop raising objections about the undisputed land that the VHP wants," VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore said in a Reuters news agency report.
"The solution to end the hatred between the two communities is to hand over the Ram Janmabhoomi [birthplace of Lord Rama] to the Hindus."
The VHP had set March 15 as the date to begin moving building materials to the site before commencing construction of the temple.
With religious tensions still high in the region, any compromise or court decision still risks sparking a new round of violence.
In the past week, almost 600 people have been killed in bloody clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
The situation has become relatively calm throughout Gujarat with attention turning towards responsibility for the bloodshed.
Government bodies have rejected strong criticism for being too slow to contain the violence, defending the reaction of local authorities and security forces as 'excellent.'
The uprising began last Wednesday when a large group, believed to be organized Muslims, fire-bombed a train carrying Hindu activists near Godhra, killing 58.
The activists were returning from a demonstration in Ayodhya, where they were showing support for the temple's construction.
For days afterwards, Hindus and Muslims laid siege to the city of Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujurat, engaging in deadly pitched battles and mob violence.
Police have arrested dozens of people for the train attack, adding to thousands of detainees locked up during the riots.
Indian police open fire on mob
March 1, 2002
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