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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 23:14 GMT
Communal tension high in Kerala
Security guards near the disputed site
The Ayodhya destruction took place nine years ago
By the BBC's Venkitesh Ramakrishnan in Trivandrum

Tension has remained high in the southern Indian state of Kerala for the fourth day running following communal clashes in different parts of the state.

The clashes began with protests on Friday when a militant Muslim organisation called for a strike.

A group of Hindu nationalist organisations including the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called their own strike this Monday in response.

Spreading violence

The strikers clashed with the police and activists of rival groups including the militant Muslim National Democratic Front (NDF).

Man carrying pistol-toting child
Ayodhya has aggravated communal tensions
The most serious violence was seen in the state's northern district of Kasarakode.

There the police fired rubber bullets at militant Hindu activists who were trying to force shops and offices to close.

Other parts of the state - including capital Trivandrum - saw clashes between supporters and opponents of the strike and acts of rioting.

Offices, shops and other public services were badly affected.

Ayodhya anniversary

The trouble began on 6 December the ninth anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in the north Indian town of Ayodhya.

A militant Muslim organisation, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) called for a strike and demanded that the mosque be rebuilt.

That day there were reports of several attacks by the Muslim strikers on devotees of the famous Sabarimala Ayyappa Hindu temple.

Militant Hindu organisations retaliated by attacking PDP leaders and police who were trying to control rioters.

The state's Chief Minister, AK Antony, has expressed deep concern at the developments.

He has asked the police to step up vigilance and try to minimise violence.

Observers say Kerala - known for its high development indices including one of the highest literacy rates in India - is facing a situation virtually unprecedented in is recent past.

See also:

11 Dec 00 | South Asia
India moves to calm Ayodhya row
16 Jun 98 | South Asia
BJP raises stakes over Ayodhya
16 Nov 00 | South Asia
India's Ayodhya cauldron bubbles
21 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bombay riot incitement case adjourned
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