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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 15:32 GMT
Muslim leaders reject Ayodhya plan
Hindu hardliners in Ayodhya
The VHP is adamant to go ahead with plans for the ceremony
Muslim leaders in India have rejected a proposal which was meant to ease tensions over a disputed holy site in the northern town of Ayodhya.


We have not accepted it in the present form. It lacks many things

SQR Ilyas, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board

The proposal was made by one of India's top Hindu religious leaders who is mediating with the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati, had suggested that Hindus be given the land next to the disputed area for a symbolic prayer pending a judgement by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Senior Muslim leaders under the banner of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board rejected the idea at a meeting in Delhi.

Muslims are angry that although the VHP says it will accept whatever ruling the Indian Supreme Court makes on the future of the site, it is still planning to hold a symbolic prayer ceremony there on 15 March.

Muslim leaders say they have received no assurance that the VHP will accept the decision of the Supreme Court, even though the VHP has stated that it will accept its verdict.

VHP adamant

Reacting to the decision, the VHP said it would go ahead with plans to perform the symbolic ceremony.

Paramilitary soldiers flag march in Ayodhya
Ayodhya is under a security blanket

The group's General Secretary, Praveen Togadia, told the BBC that no one could take away what he called the "religious right of Hindus" to carrry out the ceremony.

And some ministers in Prime Minister Vajpayee's cabinet agree the ceremony should go ahead.

The VHP has vowed eventually to build a Hindu temple on the site of the former Babri mosque at Ayodhya that Hindu activists tore down several years ago.

But last week it offered a deal under which it would give up its controversial plan if the government gave it land adjacent to the heavily guarded patch where the mosque stood for the 15 March ceremony to mark the construction of a temple.

The Muslim leaders also discussed a report on last week's sectarian riots in Gujarat sparked by an attack by Muslims on a train carrying Hindu devotees returning from Ayodhya.

They described the violence, which led to the deaths of more than 700 people, mostly Muslims, as ethnic cleansing amounting to genocide.

Extra security

The VHP says it will respect the verdict of the Supreme Court over the ownership of the disputed site.

The Shankaracharya
The chief mediator: Failed mission?

But some in the group have said Ayodhya is a religious issue and not a matter for secular jurisdiction.

The central government says it is considering a request for extra troops to be sent to Ayodhya to prevent more violence breaking out.

Followers of the VHP have been gathering in and around Ayodhya despite efforts by the local authorities to stop them.

Security around the site is currently in the hands of the police and special paramilitary forces.

In court's hands

The land in the disputed complex was taken over by the government in 1992, and is currently awaiting a final ruling on its status by the Supreme Court.

In 1992, Hindu extremists tore down a mosque at the Ayodhya site, sparking sectarian riots which left some 2,000 people dead.

They say the site is the birthplace of the Hindu god, Lord Rama.

Ayodhya special report

Ayodhya eyewitness

Background issues

Pictures and images

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO

BBC WORLD SERVICE
 VOTE RESULTS
Should plans to build the Ayodhya temple be called off?

Yes
 66.79% 

No
 33.21% 

19422 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

09 Mar 02 | South Asia
Call for army at Ayodhya site
07 Mar 02 | South Asia
Hindu hardliners 'will abide by court'
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Hindu hardliners 'agree compromise'
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Why is Gujarat so violent?
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
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