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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Hindu hardliners' Ayodhya strategy
indian soldiers
Security has been stepped up at the disputed site
By South Asia analyst Abhishek Prabhat

The move by the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to force their way into the disputed Ayodhya site was not an isolated incident.

The group has been involved in similar campaigns in the past.

Ayodhya
Hindus say it is the birth place of the god Ram
Earlier this year, it called for the storming of one of India's landmark tourist attractions - the Qutab Minar in Delhi - and for the takeover of the Quwwatul Islam mosque.

Their argument was that the 12th century mosque was built using materials and masonry from the remains of a Hindu temple.

The attempt was foiled by the police.

Publicity stunt

Analysts say their move at Ayodhya is the latest in a series of attempts to gain publicity.

They say the VHP's recent actions have failed to evoke much public support and numbers have declined at public gatherings organised by the group.

The construction of a Hindu temple on the ruins of the Babri mosque has been at the core of the VHP's programme and they couldn't have thought of a better way to get into the headlines once again.

The VHP and some other Hindu groups say the site is the birth place of god Ram and want to construct a Hindu temple there.

This is rejected by Muslims who say a mosque should be rebuilt on the ruins of the 16th century Babri mosque.

The destruction of the mosque nine years ago triggered some of the worst religious violence in India since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Election strategy

The breach of security by VHP leaders on Wednesday was the first such incident after the demolition of the mosque.

Analysts say the VHP action was also aimed at the forthcoming elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The issue of a Hindu temple on the ruins of the Babri mosque helped India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - an ally of the VHP - make substantial political gains in previous elections.

Elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh are due in March next year and the BJP-led government there is facing a tough time.

See also:

28 May 01 | South Asia
Bomb attack on Hindu priest
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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