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South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge
"Police say the attack may have less to do with the Ayodhya issue"
 real 28k

Monday, 28 May, 2001, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Bomb attack on Hindu priest
Ayodhya mosque
Das is leading a campaign to build a temple over the Babri mosque
A powerful Hindu leader and four others have been injured in a bomb attack in the northern Indian town of Faizabad.

Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who is leading a campaign to build a temple on the site of an ancient mosque, was attacked while on his way with five companions to bathe in a nearby river.

He has been admitted to hospital along with his associates and a private security guard, but his condition is not said to be serious.

"He has lacerations in the legs. We have done an x-ray and are waiting to see if there are any splinters," Dr AN Singh told the Associated Press.

Temple campaign

Mr Das is a member of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and is one of the leaders of a group that has pledged to build a temple on the ruins of a mosque in the town of Ayodhya.

The 16th century Babri mosque was demolished in 1992 by Hindu zealots who believe the site marks the birthplace of the Hindu god, Ram.

Mr Das is one of several people - including three members of India's federal cabinet - who face charges of inciting the mob that razed the mosque.

The destruction led to large-scale communal violence across India in which 2,000 people died.

'Local dispute'

Another VHP leader connected with the campaign was targeted in a similar attack last year but with a more sophisticated device.

However, police say their initial suspicion is that the latest attack may have less to do with the Ayodhya issue than with local disputes over temple property that flare up from time to time.

"Such infightings are rather common amongst the holy men in this temple town," Ayodhya district magistrate Archana Agarwal said.

The VHP is now calling for a tightening up of security which was recently reduced by the state government.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | South Asia
Uproar in Indian parliament
12 Feb 01 | South Asia
Trial for Ayodhya accused
19 Dec 00 | South Asia
Ayodhya defeat for Vajpayee
06 Dec 97 | Despatches
Hindu nationalists march on Ayodhya
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