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India Police Arrest Hindus Arriving for Ayodhya Rally - 2003-10-13


Police in India have arrested thousands of Hindu activists to head off possible violence with Muslims at a rally at a contested religious site later this week. The site is where the 16th century Babri mosque was destroyed in 1992, touching off riots that left some 2,000 people dead.

Police say that during the past three days, they have arrested more than 3,000 Hindu activists who were arriving in the northern city of Ayodhya. The police say the detained were violating a ban on public meetings in the vicinity of Ayodhya, ordered by a court last week in an effort to head off possible violence.

The court is currently hearing a case in which Hindus and Muslims both have religious claims to the site, which has been the scene of bloody clashes.

In 1992, riots broke out when Hindus destroyed the 16th century Babri mosque they claimed was built over an historic Hindu temple. Clashes ensued and roughly 2,000 people died.

The World Hindu Council has called for a rally later this week as part of their campaign to build a Hindu temple in Ayodhya.

Asked about the rally, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not comment on the court order, but said he did not believe the World Hindu Council was trying to stir up a confrontation.

The prime minister says the World Hindu Council has promised their program would be peaceful, and he trusts them.

The controversy over the Babri mosque site is one of the most divisive in India, pitting the nation's majority of Hindus against its Muslim minority.

Despite the arrests, the World Hindu Council says it has no plans to cancel the October 17 rally and expects as many as 300,000 people to attend.

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