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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 18:03 GMT
Restraint urged in Ayodhya row
President Kalam (R) with Prime Minister Vajpayee (L)
Indian leaders tread a fine line on Ayodhya
Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam has called for restraint in a row between Hindus and Muslims over a flashpoint religious site.

He said all parties should wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the disputed land in Ayodhya, where hardline Hindus demolished a 16th century mosque in 1992.

The judiciary should expedite its work and give an early verdict

President Abdul Kalam
The long dispute over the land has taken thousands of lives in communal violence.

Last week the government asked the Supreme Court for an early review of the ban on Hindu religious activities at the site but the court refused.

Ministers had sought a decision before 22 February when several of their Hindu nationalist affiliates meet in Delhi to decide if they should forcibly build a temple at the site.

Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's BJP party is closely linked to the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council) spearheading a campaign to build a temple at the disputed site.

'Lawfully but firmly'

President Kalam made his remarks while opening a new session of parliament on Monday.

A number of crucial economic and administrative reforms will be debated in this session, but correspondents say it is likely to be dominated by the religious dispute.

"While the judiciary should expedite its work and give an early verdict," President Kalam said, "it is also necessary for political parties, religious leaders and eminent social personalities to promote an atmosphere of mutual understanding, goodwill and accommodation."

President Kalam also accused Pakistan of not honouring its pledges to stop militant infiltration across the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir between the two neighbours.

"The assurances given by Pakistan on the issue of cross-border terrorism remain unfulfilled," he said.

The president also said India was determined to "take all necessary steps" to check "illegal immigration" from Bangladesh, an accusation that has soured relations between the two countries.

On Sunday, a day after meeting Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Morshed Khan in Delhi, Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani said some illegal immigrants had obtained valid identification documents.

"They all have to be sent back and it is the responsibility of police in all states to do it honestly, lawfully but firmly," he said.

Ayodhya special report

Ten years on

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See also:

14 Feb 03 | South Asia
06 Feb 03 | South Asia
07 Mar 02 | South Asia
24 Feb 00 | South Asia
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