The World Hindu Council had long planned to erect the Rama temple on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodha, India on March 15th, in defiance of court orders to desist. When a train returned from a ceremony at the site, where 20,000 Hindu activists had gathered to pray and prepare construction, Muslim vendors and their neighbors allegedly set the train on fire when Hindus, chanting nationalist slogans, refused to pay for snacks. The 57 people that died on the train were avenged by riots the following day (with eerie accuracy) when 58 Muslims were killed. Based on the long-simmering tensions between Muslims and Hindus in India over religion, things will likely get worse. The Hindu Council, or VHP, has rejected Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plea Wednesday to help keep peace by dropping plans for construction. The VHP is affliliated with Vajpayee’s majority BJP party.
Zahed Amanullah is associate editor of altmuslim.com. He is based in London, England.