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Government of India must uphold Supreme Court decision to prevent further communal violence

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The Government of India must enforce the ruling of the Indian Supreme Court to ban religious activity of any kind, ‘symbolic or actual’ on the 67-acre Ayodhya site, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said today. Hindu nationalist vows to go ahead with a symbolic ceremony at the site on 15 March, despite the ruling were described by MRG as ’cause for serious concern’. MRG called on the Government of India to ensure community protection and take all necessary action to avoid further communal violence.

In its statement of 06 March MRG called for a full, independent and impartial enquiry into communal violence by both Muslims and Hindus since 27 February, which claimed some 700 lives in the state of Gujarat. MRG called for close attention to be given to the actions of the police, military and central and State Governments who have been heavily criticized for failing to prevent attacks against mainly Muslim communities following the death of 58 Hindu activists.

MRG stated ‘The Supreme Court decision provides a breathing space for communal peace to return. It must be upheld and followed up by a permanent settlement that takes into account the constitutional obligations towards both majority and minority communities if India is to avoid a repeat of horrific recent scenes.’

The 67-acre Ayodhya site was acquired by the Indian government following the razing of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu activists in 1992, and the subsequent communal violence. According to MRG, government compliance with Hindu nationalist demands over the disputed land would be illegal under the provisions of both Indian constitutional and administrative law. Disposal of this land must be for a ‘public purpose’ and not favour one party or community. MRG has stated its extreme concern that violence will erupt again if hard-line activists are allowed to converge on the Ayodhya area or the central government bows to their demands.

MRG calls for the urgent contribution of external and independent arbitrators to work with both communities and the Indian courts towards permanent settlement of the Ayodhya dispute. Any settlement should give full regard to Indian constitutional and administrative law and the rights of all its citizens.

Notes for editors: For further information, interviews, or copies of MRG’s briefing paper ‘Hindu nationalism and communal violence in India’ please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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