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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Hindu hardliner faces charges
Bal Thackeray
Bal Thackeray: Accused of inciting disharmony

Police in the Indian city of Bombay are preparing charges against Bal Thackeray, leader of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party, for making allegedly provocative comments which could disturb religious harmony.

This follows, a speech delivered by Mr Thackeray on Dusshera, a Hindu-festival, in which he is alleged to have asked followers to set up suicide squads to tackle cross border terrorism.

The Deputy Chief Minister, in the western state of Maharashtra, Chagan Bhujbal, says Mr Thackeray will be charged under a law that deals with offences promoting animosity between different ethnic groups.

The law also prohibits any action which may prejudice the maintenance of law and order and religious harmony.

Communal disharmony

It is feared Mr Bal Thackeray's speech could result in Hindu Muslim tension and communal disharmony.

Bal Thackery and supporters
Mr Thackeray's supporters have reacted angrily

The offence carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.

Talking to the BBC, the Deputy Chief Minister said the police will review an article written by Mr Thackeray in his party newspaper, Samna, and listen to transcripts of the speech made by the leader on Dusshera.

Mr Bhujbal said the police will produce Mr Thackeray in court once the evidence against him is assessed and on approval from the state government.

Meanwhile, members of the Shiv Sena party have reacted angrily saying the allegations are politically motivated.

The spokesperson of Shiv Sena, Sanjay Nirupam, says the speech delivered by Mr Thackeray was not provocative.

He added the leader was only asking the Hindus to form suicide squads in self-defence as the government has failed to protect them and stamp out terrorism.

No comment

Mr Thackeray has refused to comment on the issue so far.

It is not the first time the Shiv Sena leader finds himself in the midst of a controversy.

His ultra-nationalist and right-wing views on Hinduism and stance against the minority Muslim community have often created a stir in the past.

A judicial commission inquiry into the 1992-93 religious violence in Bombay had found Mr Thackeray and his party members guilty of inciting religious violence when more than 1,000 people died.

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