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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Challenge over Hindus-only hot spring
By Amarnath Tewary
Rajgir, Bihar

Rajgir hot spring
Devotees bathe in the hot water Picture:Prashant Ravi
"Entry of Muslims is prohibited by the order of the Patna High Court."

That is the sign that greets bathers wishing to wash in the waters of a hot spring in the town of Rajgir in the Indian state of Bihar.

It is a law that dates right back to the days of the British Raj.

And now state lawmakers want the country's Supreme Court to review the law.

The story began in 1929 when a case was lodged in a local court over whether non-Hindus had the right to enter the spring complex.

Three years on, in July 1932, the court ruled in the favour of the Hindus.

The next year, a group of Muslims appealed against the judgement.

But in 1937, the two British judges, Chief Justice Sir Courtney Terrell and Justice James, rejected the plea in the state's High Court, saying that the water at the Garam Kund (hot water pit) was exclusively meant for the Hindus.

"It is surprising that this discrimination has been allowed for so long," Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar told the state assembly recently.

Now the state's elected lawmakers have urged the state government to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

"It is wrong to prohibit the entry of any community into a hot spring," lawmaker Mudrika Singh Yadav says.

But the chief of the Hindu temple attendants at Rajgir says they will not allow the scrapping of the judgement.

"We will oppose the government move tooth and nail," he says.

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