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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 01:15 GMT 02:15 UK
Police deny Shiv Sena arrest rumours
Shiv Sena protesters
Activists protested against decision to prosecute Mr Thackeray
Indian police have moved to quell widespread rumours that they are about to arrest militant Hindu leader Bal Thackeray.

Police commissioner MN Singh, in the western state of Maharashtra, said there were no immediate plans to arrest Mr Thackeray, the leader of the extreme right-wing Shiv Sena party.

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
He "asked the people not to lend credence to rumours of Thackeray's arrest that did the rounds throughout the day on Wednesday, triggering high tension".

On Wednesday three Shiv Sena ministers resigned from the governing coalition in protest at the state government's announcement that it would prosecute Mr Thackeray for his alleged role in anti-Muslim riots in 1992, in which hundreds of people died.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has refused to accept their resignations.

Heavy Industries Minister Manohar Joshi said he and his colleagues - Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Suresh Prabhu and Junior Finance Minister Balasahib Patil - had resigned from office as they felt "uncomfortable" being part of the goverment.

Bal Thackeray
Bal Thackeray: No regrets
Heavy security was put in place in the city of Bombay - Mr Thackeray's stronghold - amid fears of violence if the Shiv Sena leader were to be arrested.

"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.

"This man [Thackeray] openly gives threats and people get frightened. But this time law and order will be maintained," Mr Bhujbal said.

Riots

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
19 Jul 00 | South Asia
Profile: The 'tiger' of Bombay
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