Fears grow over temple attacks

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The Independent Online
COMMUNITY leaders voiced fears yesterday that extreme right-wing groups may have been involved in arson attacks on Hindu temples in this country, following the unrest in India.

Six temples in the Midlands and the North have been damaged, some seriously, since the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque by Hindu extremists on Sunday. A Hindu temple in Coventry was attacked with petrol bombs in the early hours of yesterday morning and West Midlands police said two white youths had been seen in the vicinity at about the time of the attack.

A petrol bomb was thrown against an outside temple wall, a window forced open and two petrol bombs thrown inside. In the worst attack, the Shree Krishna Hindu temple in Blacklake, West Bromwich, was gutted by fire yesterday. Bob Patel, temple president, said the damage could cost millions. Temples in Bolton, Greater Manchester and Sparkbrook, Birmingham, were also damaged, after earlier attacks on temples in Derby and Bradford.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, of the Bradford Council for Racial Equality, said: 'Our biggest fear, shared by both Hindu and Muslim communities, is that fascist elements will take advantage of this situation - or that they have done so already. It is not clear that Muslims have been involved in these attacks and it may be that some have been instigated by extreme right-wing groups.'

Leaders of Muslim and Hindu communities across the country have appealed for calm. The Imams and Mosques' Council yesterday condemned 'the barbarous, sacrilegious attacks' on the mosque in Ayodhya and urged Muslims and Hindus in Britain to stand together. 'We do not help the people of India, neither Hindu nor Muslim, by transferring their trouble to Great Britain,' a statement said.

The UK Inter Faith Network said: 'Situations abroad and social problems at home can have a disruptive effect on inter-religious relations. But we must not let these tensions and anxieties be exploited by malicious and unrepresentative individuals.'

Harshad Chauhan, vice-president of the National Council of Hindu Temples, counselled calm among Muslims and Hindus in Britain, but said Hindus in Ayodhya had no choice. 'The Ayodhya mosque is the site of the birthplace of Lord Ram, who is one of the leading figures in the Hindu religion . . . They had no choice but to go in - they did try to negotiate peacefully.'

But Ranchor Prime, of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu organisation which has its British headquarters at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire, said: 'We do not support these kind of activities. I am much more interested in Hindus looking after the holy places that they do have, rather than worrying about those they feel they ought to have.'

(Photographs omitted)