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Hindu Groups In India Hold Nationwide Protests


Members of various Hindu Nationalist parties shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in New Delhi
In India, Hindu groups have held nationwide demonstrations to protest an attack on a religious site claimed by Hindus and Muslims. Tens of thousands of security forces were deployed to guard against sectarian violence.

Thousands of Hindu activists held noisy marches, blocked roads, and shut down shops in dozens of Indian cities.

In the central city of Indore, the protesters stormed an airport, damaging the VIP lounge and blocking a runway for an hour.

In the capital New Delhi, police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of demonstrators shouting slogans like "India will not tolerate an attack on Hindu God Rama."

All across the country, security forces were deployed in strength, especially at religious places.

The protest was called by the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu groups a day after gunmen attacked a religious site that houses a makeshift Hindu temple in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state.

The gunmen were killed, and there was no damage to the site.

The temple was erected in 1992 after Hindu mobs tore down a 16th century mosque they say was built on the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama. The demolition sparked widespread Hindu-Muslim riots, and remains one of India's most contentious religious disputes as Hindu and Muslim groups both claim ownership of the site.

The Bharatiya Janata party and other Hindu nationalist groups say Tuesday's attack on Ayodhya was an attack on Hindu pride.

BJP President Lal Krishna Advani says the assault is a matter of grave concern.

Mr. Advani says the attack has targeted a site that is holy for the entire nation, and deserves a suitable response.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the government says the identity of the gunmen has yet to be established. But Hindu nationalists have blamed Islamic militants, who they say are backed by Pakistan.

Pakistan has condemned the attack, and the Indian Prime Minister has appealed for calm.