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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Prosecution shakes Indian Government
Shiv Sena protesters
Shiv Sena activists took to the streets in protest
Three ministers have offered their resignations from the Indian Government in protest against a move to prosecute a militant Hindu leader.

It was announced on Saturday that the leader of the extreme right-wing Shiv Sena party, Bal Thackeray, was to be prosecuted over his alleged role in inciting anti-Muslim riots in 1992.

Heavy security is in place in the western city of Bombay - Mr Thackeray's stronghold - amid fears of violence if the Shiv Sena leader is arrested.

Minister for Heavy Industries Manohar Joshi was reported as saying the three Shiv Sena ministers were resigning as they felt "uncomfortable" being part of the government.

The police are getting ready in case there is trouble

Deputy Chief Minister Chaggan Bhujbal

They want Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to halt the arrest of Mr Thackeray.

He has rejected their resignations.

Chemical and Fertiliser Minister Suresh Prabhu and Junior Finance Minister Balasahib Patil were the other two to hand in their resignations.

Tension

The announcement by the provincial government in western state of Maharashtra sparked street protests by Shiv Sena activists, which shut down the state capital, Bombay.

Maharashtra is run by a coalition government led by the Congress Party but the Shiv Sena controls the Bombay city council.

Bal Thackeray
Bal Thackeray: No regrets
Reports say state authorities have placed riot police on alert in the event of further protests.

"The police are getting ready in case there is trouble. There is movement of forces all over the state," Maharashtra's deputy chief minister, Chaggan Bhujbal, told the Associated Press.

Bal Thackeray
73-years-old

Began as political cartoonist

Founded Shiv Sena in 1966

Inflammatory editorials follow 1992 Ayodhya demolition

Accused of inciting violence by judicial commission

Shiv Sena rules Maharashtra 1995-99
"This man [Thackeray] openly gives threats and people get frightened. But this time law and order will be maintained," Mr Bhujbal said.

Mr Thackeray is accused of making inflammatory remarks that sparked riots in Bombay eight years ago in which more than 1,000 people died.

It followed the illegal demolition of the 16th century Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya by Hindu extremists.

In a BBC interview Mr Thackeray said he was ready to face arrest but did not regret making the remarks.

The Shiv Sena leader holds no official post and has never stood for election.

But he is a powerful regional leader who once boasted that he ran Maharashtra through "remote-control".

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See also:

15 Jul 00 | South Asia
Hindu militant faces court
28 Jul 99 | South Asia
Poll ban for Hindu leader
06 Dec 99 | South Asia
Protest over Ayodhya anniversary
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