Indian state clamps down on Hindu icon

BBC, Apr. 8, 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/
By Narayan Bareth, BBC correspondent in Jaipur

The government in the western Indian state of Rajasthan says it will closely monitor the distribution of a traditional religious symbol by Hindu hardliners.

State Home Minister Pradadi Lal Mordiya told the BBC the government’s decision followed the regular distribution of religious tridents by Hindu hardliners.

Right-wing organisations such Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal say they will oppose the order vigorously.

The government has expressed fears that the distribution of the tridents might incite communal unrest.

Government permission

However, the government order does not make specific reference to the trident, instead referring to ‘sharp weapons’.

The authorities say no one would be allowed to distribute or carry such weapons without the government’s permission.

Mr Mordiya explained that the order would not be applied to ceremonies where such weapons may be part of ancient Hindu traditions.

The Congress-led government has accused the Hindu hardliners of trying to incite communal passions ahead of general elections due next year.

President of the VHP state-unit Jagnath Gupta said: “We would violate the government order by organising more and more Trident distributions.”

Concern

Mr Gupta said the state VHP has already contacted its international general secretary Praveen Togadia and a strategy will be worked out soon.

According to the VHP, over 75,000 tridents have been distributed by the Hindu hardliners in the last year causing concern to the state government.

Last month the state police lodged a case against senior VHP leader Acharya Dharmendra charging him for making inflammatory speeches during the Trident distribution ceremony.

Since 1999, the police recorded 32 violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Rajasthan.

A government paper says there have been 133 incidents of communal tension during the last three years.

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