Fire-bomb attacks on British temples

LEADERS of Asian communities throughout Britain yesterday appealed for calm after two firebomb attacks on Hindu temples in Derby and Bradford, thought to have been reprisals for the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque.

The Indian High Commissioner in Britain, L M Singhvi, called on people of Asian origin not to allow themselves to be provoked. Hindus as well as Muslims felt 'a sense of outrage' at the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque, Dr Singhvi said.

Police emphasised that the communities in both areas were working closely together, and the vast majority of people would not condone the attacks. Elsewhere the authorities asked communities not to become involved in violent incidents or take to the streets.

The first arson attack was on the ground floor of the Derby temple in Normanton Road, near the city centre. The building was fire- bombed shortly before 4am, and because of the intensity of the blaze, fire crews could not save the building. Shiv Puri, 28, a resident priest at the temple, was in the building when the blaze started but escaped without injury. Police and fire crews said he was 'simply lucky to be alive'.

The Normanton Road area of Derby is in the centre of the city's Asian community, and home to around 8,000 Pakistanis and some 12,000 Indians. Amar Nath, chairman of Derby's Indian community centre, said he was sure people would control their emotions, despite what had happened.

In Bradford, another priest escaped unhurt when a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of the city's Hindu Cultural Centre. A threatening telephone call had been made to the temple before the attack. Pinakin Guru, who was in the building when the petrol bomb was thrown, was able to call the fire brigade quickly, and little damage was done.

Leaders of the communities in Bradford were meeting last night to discuss the attacks and decide what action, if any, should be taken. Kabaldev Soni, president of the Hindu Cultural Society, appealed for calm and said he feared further attacks. 'What has happened in India has nothing to do with us,' he added. 'It is getting out of control there. We are a peace-loving people and we want to live peacefully here.'