Hindu nationalists storm airport
Associated Press | July 6, 2005
Hindu nationalists today stormed an airport in central India and forced it to shut down in retaliation for yesterday's attack on a sacred shrine.
More than 200 people descended on the airport at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, to protest against the assault on the shrine, in northern India. They claimed it was carried out by Muslim militants.
Protesters from the World Hindu Council broke through ranks of security guards, smashing a VIP lounge before lying on the runway to block a flight bound for New Delhi.
Police beat them with bamboo truncheons before arresting 40 people, the local administrator, Vivek Agarwal, said. The airport returned to normal service around an hour later.
Yesterday's attack on the makeshift shrine, in the northern town of Ayodhya, left six protesters dead and three security guards wounded. The shrine, which is considered holy by both Hindus and Muslims, is at the heart of a decades-old sectarian conflict.
The assault on the site saw one attacker blow himself up in a jeep, blasting a hole in iron railings around it. This allowed five other attackers to enter the complex, where they were killed in a gunfight with the guards, local police said.
Hindu nationalists blamed the attack on Pakistan-backed Muslim militants, but the activists have not yet been identified and nobody has so far claimed responsibility.
"This is an attack on Hindu pride, and we shall not tolerate it," Nritya Gopal Das, a prominent Hindu religious leader in Ayodhya, said.
Hindu nationalists said the attack showed India's recent negotiations with Pakistan had been fruitless. The nationalists called for nationwide protests in the aftermath of the shrine blast.
In New Delhi, police used tear gas and water cannon to break up crowds of Hindu nationalists who were shouting anti-government slogans near the parliament building.
The demonstrators were led by Lal Krishna Advani, the head of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata party, a Hindu nationalist organisation.
The shrine was built by thousands of Hindu nationalists in 1992 after they had pulled down a 16th century Muslim mosque with crowbars, spades and their bare hands. Riots followed the demolition, killing 2,000 Hindus and Muslims across India.
Yesterday's attack was the first major assault on a Hindu temple since 2002, when 32 people died after violence erupted at the Akshardham temple, in western Gujarat.