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Muslim leaders reject Ayodhya 'compromise' plan

Hindu hardliners say they are determined that a temple will be built on the disputed site
Hindu hardliners say they are determined that a temple will be built on the disputed site  

Staff and wires

NEW DELHI, India -- Muslim leaders in India say they are rejecting a Hindu proposal aimed at defusing almost two weeks of sectarian violence over a disputed religious site in the northern town of Ayodhya.

The plan put forward by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, one of India's top clerics, had proposed giving hardline Hindus access to land adjacent to the site of the 16th century Babri mosque which was demolished 10 years ago triggering religious riots in which more than 3,000 people died.

The hardline World Hindu Council, or Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has been leading demands that a temple be built on the site and has set the date of March 15 to hold a symbolic prayer meeting there.

The compromise plan came after a week of negotiations between Hindu and Muslim leaders seeking to stem the escalating violence.

However, on Sunday the influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board rejected the plan as "incomplete".

It said it wanted written guarantees the site of the former mosque would remain untouched until the country's Supreme Court rules on who has rights to the land.

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The board decided the proposed plan "offered nothing to the Muslims", the Associated Press quoted spokesman Yusuf Muchala as saying.

Authorities fear that the planned Hindu gathering could rekindle clashes which have so far left more than 700 people dead following last month's attack on a train carrying Hindu devotees back from Ayodhya in which 58 people died.


Hardline Hindu groups believe the former Babri mosque, built by Muslim Moghul invaders in the 16th century, was constructed on the birthplace of the Hindu god-king Lord Rama.

In 1992 the mosque was stormed by Hindu mobs and demolished triggering some of the worst sectarian clashes seen since India achieved independence in 1947.

The VHP has called on followers to gather in their thousands at the site on March 15.

They had initially threatened to begin construction work on the temple on that date, but have now agreed to await the Supreme Court decision -- although they have not said they will abide by it.

Hundreds of extra security personnel have been deployed to Ayodhya
Hundreds of extra security personnel have been deployed to Ayodhya  

Hundreds of stone pillars, statues and other carvings have already been prepared for the temple and are being stored near the disputed site.

So far the current violence has been largely limited to the western Indian state of Gujarat, scene of the deadly train attack on February 27.

However, authorities fear that if the VHP prayer meeting goes ahead that could trigger clashes across the country.

On Sunday at least one person was killed and 32 were wounded when police clashed with Hindu activists holding a prayer meeting in a village outside the eastern city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.

Anticipating further trouble police and security forces across India have been put on a heightened state of alert with hundreds of reinforcements drafted into the town of Ayodhya itself.


• Indian police open fire on mob
March 1, 2002

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