Hopes of India temple compromise
AYODHYA, India -- India is hoping a massive security presence and a compromise by a hardline Hindu leader may save the holy town of Ayodhya from a fresh bout of clashes.
On Friday 93-year-old fundamentalist Hindu leader Ramchandra Das Paramhans said he had dropped plans for a prayer ceremony on a controversial site near a demolished mosque that has been a flashpoint for Hindus and Muslims in this country.
A Supreme Court verdict on Wednesday banned the ceremony -- part of a program to build a Hindu temple on the site sacred to both Hindus and Muslims -- but some Hindu hardliners had vowed to go ahead.
The temple plan has re-ignited bloody Hindu-Muslim violence. Last month a train carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya was firebombed by suspected Muslims -- killing almost 60 people.
That attack sparked mass riots and secular clashes between the two groups, mainly in the Western state of Gujarat, that left more than 700 people dead.
Paramhans, who had threatened to commit suicide if not allowed to pray at the site, has now agreed to hold a "peaceful" ritual ceremony elsewhere in the temple-studded Indian town, according to Reuters.
"I have no intention of putting my foot on the acquired land," Paramhans told reporters.
"Whatever I do, it will be done peacefully."
The suicide threat had promised to be a flashpoint for renewed violence in the town, with thousands of Hindu hardliners flocking for a parade and prayer ceremony.
Intelligence sources have told The Associated Press that up to 20,000 Hindu activists were on the outskirts of Ayodhya, a town of 40,000 people, and some had planned to sneak in overnight.
The Hindu parade -- where zealots will carry pre-carved stones for a temple they plan to build to the Hindu warrior god Ram -- and prayer ceremony was scheduled for 2.15 pm (0845 GMT) Friday.
In a bid to curb any new clashes, India has sent 14,000 para-military troops and police to the region and thrown a tight security cordon around the town.
Up to 900 Hindu activists heading to Ayodhya for the ceremony have been detained, media reports say, with another 400 from across the state of Uttar Pradesh arrested.
Hindus believe the disputed land is the birthplace of Ram and the building of a mosque there in the 16th century was a calculated insult to their beliefs.
The burning down of the Muslim Babri mosque on the disputed site in 1992 triggered nationwide riots that killed about 3,000 people.
Mumbai police said Friday they had detained nearly 1,000 people as a preventive measure to ensure communal peace.
The detentions were made after the police conducted overnight raids across the city, a police spokesman said.
More than 40,000 policemen were deployed across that city to maintain order.
Fresh India violence 'under control'
March 11, 2002
Muslim leaders reject Ayodhya 'compromise' plan
March 11, 2002
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